REVIEW: ‘Phenomenal’ Romeo and Juliet opens at the Bristol Hippodrome

PUBLISHED: 14:00 22 November 2017

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

Laurent Liotardo

The world’s most famous love story about two star cross’d lovers was retold perfectly as the English National Ballet performed Romeo and Juliet opened at the Bristol Hippodrome last night (Tuesday).

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison. Picture: Laurent Liotardo English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

Poet and playwright William Shakespeare’s greatest work was brought to life in a flurry of grand music and impeccable dancing.

The tragic love story follows two warring families, the Capulets and the Montagues, in Verona who have reduced the city to turmoil in their feud.

But at a masked ball, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet dance and subsequently fall in love and elope shortly after.

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison Picture: Laurent Liotardo English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison Picture: Laurent Liotardo

However things take a turn for the worse as death and despair take centre stage as the ballet turns from romance to tragedy.

Breaking away from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s widely performed version of the tale, the English National Ballet used Rudolf Nureyev’s choreography – which featured more tongue-in-cheek moves which you would not commonly associate with the bard’s original work.

The opening score and scene of the show really set the tone, with three masked demons crossing the stage, opening the warring gates and a large red curtain billowing down to the floor.

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

This dark scene seemed to be the equivalent of Shakespeare’s original prologue, informing the audience of the dark and deadly nature the sweet love story will take.

The staging of Romeo and Juliet was very clever, with the two families divided by two colours – the Capulets in red and the Montagues in a pale green – to help the audience tell the sides apart and the moving walls to depict which family house we were in.

The characters were perfectly represented and each had their own unique character, which is difficult to achieve when you do not talk.

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

The cheeky companionship between Mercutio (Pedro Lapetra) and Benvolio (James Forbat) was brilliant and it was nice to have a few laughs in what is actually a very sad story.

Add their partnership with Juliet’s tight-lipped Nurse (Laura Hussey) and you had a hilarious team.

From the laughter of this trio to Tybalt (Fabian Reimair), who was blinded by hatred for the Montagues.

English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison. Picture: Laurent Liotardo English National Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet. Jurgita Dronina and Aaron Robison. Picture: Laurent Liotardo

The final battle between Mercutio and Tybalt’s characters was very well choreographed with a good balance of sword fighting, and fencing and dance.

But, with all the fantastic dancers which filled the stage, my eyes could not be drawn away from the lead principals.

Aaron Robison’s Romeo and Jurgita Dronina’s Juliet had palpable chemistry which really pulled the audience in and their two pas de deux’s were simply phenomenal.

From Romeo’s first courtship of Juliet at the ball to their final dance before their untimely deaths, I was left wanting more and more at the end of each scene.

But, as with any ballet, the show would not be complete without the incredibly talented orchestra and the National Ballet’s orchestra were something else.

They were able to add something to each scene and build emotion, especially in the ballroom scene – where the music took you on a journey.

Romeo and Juliet will be at the Bristol Hippodrome from today (Wednesday) until Saturday at 7.30pm each night with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday.

Tickets, priced £13.90-52.90, are available from 08448 713012 or from the Hippodrome’s website.

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