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Review: Romeo and Juliet

Testosterone-filled, muscular men in tights and the innocent lurve of star-crossed young lovers in the Nureyev ballet

It’s the 40th anniversary of Rudolph Nureyev’s production of Romeo and Juliet, originally choreographed to showcase his own prodigious talents in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and the English National Ballet’s revival now comes west to the Bristol Hippodrome for seven spectacular performances.

So, we all know how the story ends, but the magic of any tale is in the telling, and this version has a darkly tragic Shakespearean flavour from the outset. Love may be all around us, but so is death, with reminders of the plague that ravaged medieval Europe setting the scene for Romeo and Juliet’s ill-fated romance.

Nureyev’s choreography is muscular and vibrant, bristling with danger, as the testosterone-filled rivalry between the young men of the Capulet and Montague families escalates with violent intent. The lively grime of bustling Verona overflows with bawdy detail and youthful vigour, which contrasts dramatically with the courtly pomp and grandeur of the Capulets’ ball, where the young lovers first meet.

The principals, Aaron Robison as Romeo, and Jurgita Dronina as Juliet, bring a tender, dreamy innocence to the drama – their beautiful pas de deux exhibiting both the fevered rush of young love, and a growing awareness of the complications of the adult world, where difficult decisions have to be made.

The ensemble scenes, when the whole stage becomes a breathtaking whirl of colour and continuous movement, are awe-inspiring. As the feuding between the clans becomes all-out war, swords flash at lightning speed and bodies literally fly through the air; the complexity of the choreography is hugely challenging, and a great showcase for the skills of those many men in tights.

As there’s no pit, the Hippodrome audience has the great privilege of being able to watch the English National Ballet Philharmonic orchestra, led by Gavin Sutherland, as they bring Prokofiev’s wondrous score to life, making the whole production a true feast for all the senses.

Review by CW (back in those borrowed stilettos). All photos copyright of the aptly named Laurent Liotardo.

Romeo and Juliet is on at the Bristol Hippodrome from Tues 21–Sat 25 Nov.

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