Romeo and Juliet with Acosta and Rojo, English National Ballet, ENB, Albert Hall, June 2014Posted on 12 June 2014
Ballet in the round has its advantages, particularly the greater scope for patterns when playing to all sides of the auditorium. These can involve lots of dancers, or just a few as in early Act III with the Capulet parents, Paris, Juliet and her nurse interweaving in an intriguing way. You need a little height to see such patterns — rear of the main stalls or higher — but the Albert Hall has masses of seating at such levels.
It also has a huge arena, eminently suitable for the large market place scenes where the four whores, excitingly danced by Laurretta Summerscales, Nancy Osbaldeston, Ksenia Ovsyanick and Adela Ramirez can, at some moments, face the audience in all four directions. And towards the end when Juliet’s family lays her to rest, some thirty monks move outwards to place candles round the edges of the stage. The ENB’s very effective use of the oval stage for Derek Deane’s version of Romeo and Juliet allows the lovers to encounter one another for the first time mid-stage as formal dancing goes on around them, and towards the end of Act I a balcony with steps moves out into the stage so their meeting can be seen from all sides.
Superb performances by Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo as Romeo and Juliet, dancing together for the first time in this production. Yonah Acosta was a brilliant Mercutio, and the two Acostas with Junor Souza as Benvolio made an excellent trio, their darker skins contrasting with the pale arrogance of Fabian Reimeir as Tybalt. His sneering attitude even after fatally stabbing Mercutio is the hubris that brings him down, yet he was nicely controlled and never over the top. Fine matriarchal control from Jane Haworth as his aunt Capulet, while James Streeter as her husband showed such abundance of assertive energy, and physicality with his daughter Juliet, that he seemed the most irascible in the family.
Conducting by Gavin Sutherland was very effective in the emotionally charged moments, but as he was unable to see the dancers directly across the orchestra the lighter moments seemed to lose their sparkle. Main plaudits though to Carlos Acosta for a riveting performance of Romeo, with Tamara Rojo’s Juliet full of youthful heartbreaking emotion. Her despair was touching in Act III when faced with her father and Paris, and the anguish of her subsequent solo was palpable.
Performances at the Albert Hall with various casts continue until June 22, which will be Daria Klimentova’s Swan song — for details click here.