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Shakespeare's doomed love affair presented in dance
Romeo and Juliet has been a popular part of Birmingham Royal Ballet's repertoire for nearly 30 years. Created by Sir Kenneth MacMillan not long after the company moved to Birmingham, it brings together love, tragedy, hate, rivalry, drama and humour all in under three hours.
Based on Shakespeare's classic doomed romance and with music by Sergei Prokofiev, the production takes us to the streets of Verona where the two houses of Montague and Capulet have divided the city with hate forcing young people to choose a camp and remain there. Into this toxic atmosphere come Romeo and Juliet two young people bonded by love but from opposite sides of the divide and the result is, of course, tragedy.
Brandon Lawrence and Celine Gittens as Romeo and Juliet
Celine Gittens is a childish and naοve Juliet who prefers to tease her nurse and play with dolls than to face the future even when a political marriage with nobleman Paris (Callum Findlay-White) is proposed. When she meets Brandon Lawrence's Romeo, everything changes but Gittens' Juliet retains an innocence even as she defies her parents, marries the family enemy and plans deceit to escape the consequences.
Gittens has a real connection with Lawrence so that whenever their eyes meet across the crowded stage or when they are alone together, the audience can feel their intense devotion for each other. Lawrence is both playful but also imperious as Romeo one moment joking with the lads and the next facing up to his enemies. But when he dances with Gittens we see the tenderness and devotion of Romeo's love.
Romeo's enemies are encapsulated in Tybalt played by Rory Mackay. Stalking across the stage, Tybalt is the ever-present reminder that this romance is unlikely to go well. He watches and waits, his eyes following Romeo like a cat eyeing a pigeon and when he strikes, he does so with a sword stabbing Romeo's friend Mercutio in the back.
Up until then, Max Maslen's Mercutio has been full of light - he's fun, he likes to flirt with the girls, play around with his mates, goad the Capulets but it is his death and Romeo's revenge killing of Tybalt which ensure the romance is doomed.
This production gives the company plenty of opportunities to showcase the corps with ballroom dances and street scenes galore. But at its heart lies the relationship between the eponymous hero and heroine. Under the baton of conductor Martin Georgiev, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia rises to the challenge of Prokofiev's stunning score, picking out the most delicate of moments and thundering in for the drama.
Romeo and Juliet continues at Birmingham Hippodrome until October 9 and the company presents Carlos Curates: R&J Reimagined which features BRB performing Edward Clug's Radio and Juliet and Rosie Kay Dance Company performing Romeo Juliet on October 14-16. For full information see www.brb.org.uk