An absolute treat: Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
August 1, 2023

It is a feast of outstanding dancing. Matthew Bourne’s choreography and Terry Davies’ arrangement of the original Prokofiev score are a match made in heaven. The precision with which the dance fits the music leaves one literally breathless. The swirl of intricate and superbly executed steps draws the eye further and further into the depth of the horror unfurling on the stage.

Bourne has been praised for his ability to seek out and develop dancers to fit his ballets, rather in the way jigsaw pieces fit together. Romeo and Juliet is no exception. Paris Fitzpatrick and Cordelia Braithwaite danced the title roles with a totality of emotional commitment that was, at times, almost overwhelming.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet
Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo (centre left) and company
Photo Johan Persson

Ben Brown’s Mercutio was a tortured portrait of man lost to himself, full of confusion, anxiety, and self-doubt. As Balthasar, Mercutio’s lover, Jackson Fitch was exquisite in his bereavement solo, exploring fully all the anger and sorrow of loss found in Bourne’s subtle choreography.

These roles particularly also give the dancers the opportunity to shine as actors, which they did outstandingly, although the rest of the 19-strong cast also brought plenty of emotion and technique to their endeavour.

In his programme note, Bourne says that he did not want the audience to know exactly where the piece is set, leaving it to each to decide. The set is clever in its design, adding layers of physical levels to the dance, which are exploited to good effect. It does sometimes feel a little bland however, which the restlessly white costumes do nothing to alleviate. The chair dance also goes on a tad too long and there is also a little too much walking around the stage in lines early in the piece. But nothing can diminish what is an outstanding show, outstandingly performed.

New Adventures perform Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells, London to September 2, 2023.