Saturday 5 August 2023

Romeo + Juliet - Review

Sadler's Wells Theatre, London


Music by Prokofiev
Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet returns to Sadler’s Wells, reminding London of this brilliant, bloody interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tale.

Set in the dystopian Verona Institute in the ‘not too distant future’, this is a Romeo + Juliet that sees the Bard’s narrative fused to Prokofiev’s classic score and staged with more than a nod to Lindsay Anderson’s If... Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and maybe just a hint of Alan Clarke's Scum for good measure.

Bourne’s action never leaves the white tiles of the institution, harshly lit and policed by armed guards. This is a bold and distinctive Romeo + Juliet that where necessary plays fast and loose with the familiar plotlines to enable the narrative to reach its tragic climax while still maintaining the rudiments of the story.

Where everyone bar the guards and Romeo’s patrician parents are clad in white, it’s a challenge for the humble punters to discern the Montagues from the Capulets - but that is but a minor quibble. The flawless standard of Bourne’s New Adventures company’s dance is breathtaking. Their movement so apparently effortless and immaculately drilled, is sensational.

In the pit Brett Morris conducts a scaled down orchestra of 15 players. But as those famous opening bars of Act One play out so magnificently and chillingly, one quickly realises that not only is Prokofiev’s composition in very safe hands, but also how appropriate Bourne’s vision is for the music.

Paris Fitzpatrick and Cordelia Braithwaite dance the leading roles bringing athleticism, passion and a profound vulnerability to their characters. There’s a wickedly fine turn from Danny Reubens’ Tybalt too.

Yet again Lez Brotherston partners with Bourne to deliver a stunningly evocative stage set, complete with a domed ceiling to the Verona Institute that rises and falls like ET's mother ship.

The production values are immaculate throughout, with New Adventures proving a fine example of Arts Council England’s money that is being well spent. And while Matthew Bourne may have teasingly juggled with one of the oldest love stories in the canon, his blood-soaked finale concludes a truly ripping yarn.

Runs until 2nd September
Photo credit: Johan Persson

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