Saturday 28 October 2006

BRB Romeo and Juliet

Last night we are at Sadler's Wells for the Birmingham Royal Ballet performance of Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. Amazingly this new production was first seen in 1992, but this was the first time I had seen it. Part of the interest was to see production of the ballet in designs other than those of Giordiadis. Paul Andrews's sets were suprisingly elaborate. They were very renaissance Florence, perhaps filtered through English 19th century eyes. In a way I would have liked the permanent set of steps and arches at the back of the stage to have have been less realistic, but the various drop curtains for the other scenes were quite, quite lovely.

The crowd scenes in Acts 1 and 2 were efficient and lively without ever quite reaching the level of gripping theatre that the Royal Ballet does; BRB at times seemed merely artful. Though of course, this is the nth revival of a touring production, so it must be difficult to keep up the level all the time. Still, the dancing itself was always technically good.

Ambra Vallo was a wonderful, truly girlish Juliet; one that matured throughout the ballet. For me, hers was the stand out performance. Chi Cao was neat and efficient as Romeo, his dancing was never off centre. But he lacked the sheer swagger and exuberance that is needed to bring this role off. (In fact, I think it was swagger and exuberance that this whole production lacked.) His partnership with Vallo seemed a little careful; there were the odd moments of apparent calculation on their part before Vallo undertook some of the more complex movements. After all, there is quite a lot of MacMillan's trademark throwing around in this ballet.

James Grundy as Mercutio was slightly more sombre than usual, his sparkle less incessant than I'm used to; Grundy was technically OK, and very popular but it must be said that he is the podgiest ballet dancer that I have ever seen!

The remainder of the cast were excellent. Tyrone Singleton lowred wonderfully as Benvolio and Samara Downs did a brilliant impression of Morticia Adams for her Lady Capulet.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia seemed at times a little stretched, but under Paul Murphy they gave a strong performance.

All in all a good evening and with some involving performances. The ending was truly moving and all over again I came to admire the ballet. We'll have to see it at Covent Garden again now!

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