February 24, 2016
Birmingham Royal Ballet has inherited a great tradition of choreography and dance and it’s nice to have the opportunity to celebrate it with them, so what better to do it with than Kenneth Macmillan’s spectacular Romeo and Juliet.
For some magical reason, on the first night this current production seemed more powerful than ever, a fierce energy fizzing through the whole company. There’s plenty of powerful acting too from the very beginning in a series of spectacular set pieces that had the audience shouting approval at the finale.
Set to Prokofiev’s eerily evocative score Macmillan’s creation is a series of emotional high spots from ecstasy to despair, from the sunlit opening where young bloods mingle with merchants and tarts in Verona’s plaza to its tragic torch-lit conclusion. High points include the Capulets’ gilded ball, the balcony scene suffused by moonlight, the hair-raising midday swordfight that ends in the tragedy of Mercutio’s death and the dark horrors of the charnel house.
This outstandingly accomplished evening was packed with stars, some firmly established, others newly announcing themselves. Marion Tait was superb as the old nurse to whom Juliet is more dear than the daughter she herself lost. Tyrone Singleton was perfect as a cold, deadly and implacable Tybalt. Michael O’Hare was fittingly dignified as Lord Capulet the head of a great clan while Mathias Dingman’s joyous portrayal of Romeo’s tragic friend Mercutio made his death even more shockingly unexpected.
Iain McKay, totally inhabiting the role of Romeo made his brief flight from boyhood to death both beautiful and agonising to watch. But it was Jenna Roberts as Juliet who quite rightly stole the show. Her awakening to love, her agonies at being forced to marry and her despair leading to the final unalterable step were marvellous, the dance’s extremes urgently conveying this girl-child’s agony.
A great night all round.
Romeo and Juliet runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday February 27, then touring to Salford, Sunderland, Nottingham and Plymouth. Details here.