Romeo a Juliet, Ballet Cymru, Riverfront, Newport

November 5, 2016 by

Ballet Cymru’s award-winning Romeo a Juliet is back on the road and shows again what makes this a company that is a little different and a lot special.

The choreography from Darius James and Amy Doughty is sharp and sassy with plenty of opportunities for both the young chaps to show off their athleticism matched with artistic flair and the entire ensemble virtuosic elegance and flair.

The Welsh flavour of the show, note the a rather than and in the title, comes with the inclusion of clog dancing for the Dance of the Knights, probably the best known section of Prokofiev’s delicious score. I am not a great fan of this dance form but here it melded in cleverly with the dangerous, threatening music and atmosphere of the narrative.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know everyone and their granny loves Romeo and Juliet and yes Shakespeare poetry is exquisite. However, I have always found the story itself boring and sad not so much as a tear jerking love story but how kids get obsessed and do stupid things.

So in this production, as with Prokofiev’s music here recorded by Sinfonia Cymru, I enjoyed the more upbeat, physical sections of the dance; the rivalry between the gangs, the well-choreographed fight sequences, the boys’ stabbing death scenes rather more than our star-crossed lovers’ duets.  They were danced with great finesse and Juliet of Gwenllian Davies, a new company dancer,  showed wonderful poise and sparkling lines and interpretation in the choreography that combined classic technique and style with modern strokes. Our hero Andrea Maria Battagia looks and dances the part with the required controlled passion and energy. yet for me lacked chemistry.

My eye was taken by the happily bouncy Lydia Arnoux dancing Juliet’s friend (traditionally the Nurse), the battery pack that is Miguel Fernades dancing Mercutio. Similarly the scenes involving Dylan Waddell as Tybalt and the male role of Benvolio taken her by Anna Pujol seemed the most.

The show also came alive with highly effective video projections and  atmospheric lighting from Chris Illingsworth which gave the production a contemporary resonance (bleak concrete structures rather than pretty quasi Elizabethan imagery) although Juliet’s balcony and the tomb were played pretty straight.  At times there is more than a passing nod to West Side Story, but, hey, don’t knock it!

The costumes from Georg Meyer-Wiel did put us into some vague historic setting. The role of Count Paris, danced by Mark Griffiths, was not particularly developed and if anything his stabbing by Romeo seemed sadder than when the Shakespeare’s  hero took the poison.

Lord and lady Capulet, danced by Robbie Moorcroft and Ann Wall, brought a strong characterisation, helped by having been given distinctive dance vocabulary for their roles.

We had a little gender fluidity in the casting, never a bad thing, with Friar Lawrence danced by guest dancer Krsytal Lowe but there was no attempt to get too gimmicky or delve into any psychobabble.

Try to catch the show on tour and then also book for the company’s long overdue big stage outing at Wales Millennium Centre with  Roald Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.

This is a co production between Ballet Cymru, Coreo Cymru and The Riverfront.

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