27 October 2021
There is patently a reason why Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version of this ballet is still a staple of ballet companies across the world after over 50 years – it is very good! From the stylised and formal presentation of the nobility to the cheeky teasing of Mercutio and the tender and athletic lead roles; match these with the sublime music by Prokoviev and you have a winning formula.
With Birmingham Royal Ballet now working under the great Carlos Acosta (this is one of his favourite ballets) , it is no wonder that the Company is keen to display their talent in this showpiece production. It doesn’t disappoint. This clear telling of the Shakespeare classic has every element ticked with the performers on and off stage fully engaged and bringing the tragic story to life with their individual skills.
With designs by the late Paul Andrews, set and costumes emit Shakespeare from every inch of material and it makes for a comforting visual treat, all of which are complemented by the lighting designs of John B Read; from the bright lights of the fun and games to the dim shadows of pain and tragedy, this is a production full of atmosphere.
On the current Birmingham Royal Ballet website, dancer Miki Mizutani states that her dream role would be that of Juliet; on the night I reviewed, she made her debut. And what a debut. Utterly beguiling from the moment she appears on the stage, she captivates the whole audience – not just Romeo. Her natural youthfulness and apparent fragility are the foundation of her portrayal; but it is a fully rounded characterisation; her expressive face makes you smile, warms your soul and breaks your heart. She moves with fluidity and grace and her pointe work is sublime. It is a debut to be immensely proud of.
Yasuo Atsuji is a towering and impossibly handsome Romeo, the moment he sets eyes on Juliet there is a frisson through the auditorium The stage is set for this love story. Atsuji is immensely experienced and has played Romeo many times, so this partnership is a new one and it works like a dream. The two dancers merge into one at times and you can be forgiven for thinking you are watching some inventive and beautiful piece of modern dance at work – two bodies in complete harmony. There is no doubt the two characters are in love as demonstrated by the exquisite balcony pas de deux.
Valentin Olovyannikov verges on the pantomime villain as Tybalt, but dominates with his glare, while Gus Payne is a cheeky, provocative Mercutio who teams up so effectively with Enrique Bejarano Vidal (as Benvolio) who, at just 18, is making a hugely impressive start to his career. Any humour is, as usual with this story, reserved for Juliet’s Nurse and Laura Day makes the most of the chance to relax everyone! Elsewhere we are wonderfully entertained by the mandolin players; their unusual costumes rather make them appear as multi-coloured Old English Sheepdogs! The company work incredibly hard and reward the audience with a night to remember.
As mentioned, the story is clearly told and the moments of quiet are put into relief by the frantic and exciting fight sequences – some excellent swordsmanship on show.
Under the baton of Philip Ellis, the Royal Ballet Symphonia perform the score with aplomb – a little languid at times maybe? But I am not complaining. Prokoviev’s music is, up there with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ as the greatest of ballet scores.
When reinvention is all the rage, it is good to have the chance to witness the reinvention’s of yesterday, which, to some modern viewers might appear old-fashioned. If you wish to see high quality dance, drama and beauty, you would do far worse than catching this excellent production which will create a lump in your throat even if you don’t think it will!
THIS REVIEW FIRST APPEARED IN REVIEWSGATE.COM
CAST & CREATIVES
JULIET – Miki Mizutani
ROMEO – Yasuo Atsuji
MERCUTIO – Gus Payne
TYBALT -Valentin Olovyannikov
BENVOLIO – Enrique Bejarano Vidal
PARIS – Callum Findlay-White
LORD CAPULET – Jonathan Payn
LADY CAPULET – Yijing Zhang
ESCALUS – Rory Mackay
ROSALINE – Isabella Howard
NURSE – Laura Day
FRIAR LAURENCE & LORD MONTAGUE – Kit Holder
LADY MONTAGUE – Reina Fuchigami
JULIET’S FRIENDS – Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Matilde Rodrigues, Lynsey Sutherland
THREE HARLOTS – Rosanna Ely, Sofia Liñares, Eilis Small
MANDOLIN DANCERS – Miles Gilliver, Louis Andreasen, Ryan Felix, Eric Pinto Cata,
Hamish Scott, Shuailun Wu
BALL GUESTS AND TOWNSFOLK – Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet
MUSIC – SERGEI PROKOVIEV
CHOREOGRAPHY – SIR KENNETH MACMILLAN
CONDUCTOR – PHILIP ELLIS
LEADER – ROBERT GIBBS
DESIGN – PAUL ANDREWS
LIGHTING DESIGN – JOHN B READ