I was lucky enough to have been invited to the UK première night of Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet, and it was absolutely stunning. I’ve seen the Northern Ballet before, when I saw The Great Gatsby at Sadler’s Wells, so I knew I was in for a treat. I’d texted my lovely friend Elspeth to see if she fancied joining me, as I’d raved on about the ballet to her so much, I figured that she probably was more than deserving of actually seeing it. Full of Teviot pizza (yay!), we headed into the theatre on Thursday night.
Set to Sergei Prokofiev’s score, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s choreography of the ballet is incredible. Friar Laurence is envisioned as a central figure, wracked with guilt over the deaths he has inadvertently caused, and the Maid is a wonderfully comic contrast. There are puppets. The street fight scene was played out in slow motion, and I have genuinely no idea how it’s physically possible to do a back somersault in slow motion, but Sean Bates – as Benvolio – managed it.
The staging is sparse and minimalist, with curved screens acting as the only backdrop. The focus is wholly on the dancers, whilst the choreography forces the audiences attention to different points of the stage. Romeo and Juliet, danced by Guiliano Contadini and Martha Leebolt, are incredible to watch – their scenes together were beautiful.
One of my favourite things about Maillot’s version of the ballet was that by Act III, Juliet was barefoot. Leebolt was completely believable as Juliet, heartbroken by Act III, and completely unsure of how to fix what has happened. Isaac Lee-Baker’s Friar Laurence was just the right amount of sinister, as he crept back into view to wake Juliet in the crypt. The entire final scene was perfect.
Romeo & Juliet is on at the Festival Theatre until Saturday 28th February, so there’s just enough time to grab yourself a ticket; it comes very highly recommended.