Romeo and Juliet, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2011

Just to make sure we understand the fateful denouement, four figures of fate appear at the beginning and end, but apart from this, and the final reconciliation between Capulets and Montagues, it’s Shakespeare with Prokofiev’s glorious music. The choreography by Rudolf Nureyev lacks the understatement of Kenneth Macmillan’s version, but fully makes up for it in masculine strength and bravado, coupled with sheer inventiveness that helps define the characters of Juliet and her cousin Tybalt, along with Romeo and Mercutio on the Montague side.

Daria Klimentova and Vadim Mutagirov, photo by Annabel Moeller

The dancing was superb indeed. Vadim Mutagirov made a wonderfully elegant Romeo, and danced like a god. Daria Klimentova as his Juliet played the role to perfection, and her evident dislike of Daniel Kraus’s anxious and clingy Paris came over very well, particularly her distress with the wedding dress in Act III. Juliet’s fondness for Tybalt is expressed in a brief pas-de-deux in Act I, and Fabian Reimair was the kind of Tybalt one could almost feel sorry for — a fiery impulsive young man whose skill with the sword is insufficient to match his angry intentions. Juliet’s shock and lamentation at his death was wracked with emotion. Max Westwell danced strongly as Benvolio, and Juan Rodriguez was superb as Mercutio in a role that is played partly as a comic act but with an added sense of drama when he is mortally wounded by Tybalt, and his friends see his death throes as mere play-acting, which they applaud. Rodriguez — a last minute replacement for Yat-Sen Chang — was entirely convincing in the role, and Paul Lewis was outstanding as Lord Capulet, showing perfect timing and fine musicality. The whole cast danced beautifully, both in the solo parts and the ensemble pieces.

Nureyev’s choreography gives a real edge to the fight scenes, and the punch-up in Act I sets the stage for the extraordinary enmity we witness between two feuding families. He first created the production for this company — known then as the London Festival Ballet — in 1977, dancing the role of Romeo himself. This revival is staged by Patricia Ruanne and Frederic Jahn, who were the original Juliet and Tybalt. It has a thrilling energy, just like Nureyev himself, and is only slightly undermined by the frequent changes of scene, and the dream sequences. The dancers are all utterly committed to acting their roles, and I only wish the Company would get rid of those supers who appear front-stage at the sides in Act II, spoiling the body language expressed by the rest of the cast.

Prokofiev’s music has been slightly rearranged, partly so that additional parts of the story can be expressed, such as the attack on Friar John who carries Lawrence’s letter to Romeo in Mantua. The news of Juliet’s apparent death is brought to Romeo by Benvolio, and the arpeggios that express Juliet’s frenzied frustration in Act III before she consults Friar Lawrence, reappear here to express Romeo’s appalling distress, along with very physical choreography between him and Benvolio. There is much to enjoy and absorb in this fine production, and Gavin Sutherland brought out the power and beauty of the music after a sluggish start during the introduction.

Performances continue until January 15 — for more details click here.

Leave a Comment