This was my first time seeing Romeo and Juliet on stage. Kenneth MacMillan created this version of the ballet in 1965 on Prokofiev’s famous score, which was composed in 1935, specifically for a ballet. Birmingham Royal Ballet has its own version (different from the Royal Ballet) as they asked Kenneth MacMillan to re-stage it in 1992, shortly before he died. He plucked a design student called Paul Andrews, fresh from his graduate show, to design it and the sets and costumes contribute a great deal.
I had hoped to see Brandon Lawrence as Romeo, as he is one of the dancers on the Enrico Cecchetti Diploma DVD, shortly to be released (plus he’s on the poster!). However César Morales did a fantastic job and Brandon was a step-perfect Benvolio. Juliet was danced by Momoko Hirata, whose interpretation of the role I really enjoyed. She didn’t over do it, which I can see it would be easy to do. I found her performance refined and expressive. My criticism of the role would actually be directed to MacMillan’s choreography. I found Juliet’s first scene with her nurse too impish and immature. I get it that she’s young and inexperienced, but for me her journey from playful child to suicidal lover in three acts was too much of a stretch.
César Morales danced a brilliant Romeo – again portraying the emotions of the role without over-acting so he was totally believable. Technically he danced fantastically, particularly in his mastery of the double turns and extensions required. He appeared to be a thoughtful partner and he worked with Momoko seamlessly which made every pas de deux so enjoyable to watch.
Tzu-Chao Chou did a very good job as Mercutio. He was athletic and bright and hit all his turns, jumps and positions spot on. Writing this it’s apparent that’s what this performance was – spot on. There was hardly a beat missed, it was technically accurate and beautifully danced, it was expressive in its story-telling, but totally believable, and the sets truly transported you to old Verona.
I really enjoyed the two stand-out group scenes. Firstly the sword fight where there was too much delight to take in as they battled on stage in pairs with their swords clashing in time to the music. BRB have done a fabulous short film showing rehearsal and performance footage of this https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155551377343085&id=90001263084
And secondly the ball scene (to the musical section made more famous by The Apprentice) which is truly moving and iconic and displays the inspired creativity of MacMillan in the arm positions of the women.
I started my notes for this by writing, “I always enjoy BRB productions and this one didn’t disappoint.” By the end of my post, I wondered why? I think my Cecchetti background is well reflected at this company, which means I watch the dancing and appreciate it as the pinnacle of the art. Although the Principles are truly an international mix (from China, Taiwan, USA, Canada, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and two each from Japan and the UK), they dance a truly English style of ballet. You can feel the influence of Cecchetti through Ninette de Valois, through David Bintley (Director) to the Company today. But most importantly you feel their connections with each other. You can’t tell on stage if there are egos and divas battling with each other, all you see is Bintley’s vision of a “non-exclusive extended family”. His company has heart and I think this is the reason BRB are so enjoyable to watch.