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Romeo and Juliet Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome - Review

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Be swept away by romantic ballet
Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) has a good record when it comes to brushing up on its Shakespeare and the latest offering resurrects the famous version of Romeo and Juliet, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan.

Birmingham royal ballet, brb, Romeo and Juliet, Birmingham Hippodrome
Glorious sets and costumes in Romeo and Juliet

BRB's full-length production of The Taming of the Shrew was scintillating in 2016 as was the company's short programme of Shakespeare Triple Bill in the same year.

Now it's Romeo and Juliet set to Sergei Prokofiev's masterful score with MacMillan's expressive choreography. The production was first performed by BRB in 1992 at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it is currently being performed until June 28.

This time around, at the performance I saw, the star-crossed lovers are being danced by Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence. She's one of the company's principal dancers going from strength to strength who was centre stage for Birmingham's Commonwealth Games handover routine performed live to millions of TV viewers worldwide. He's an exciting rising talent at BRB. Together they are mesmerising.

Birmingham royal ballet, brb, Romeo and Juliet, Birmingham Hippodrome
Brandon Lawrence is a rising talent at BRB

Romeo and Juliet is one of those big set productions that BRB do so well. Rich in costumes,elaborate stage designs and detail, there are even rythmic sword fights in time to the music between the Montagues and Capulets.

The narrative is clearly understandable in the dance throughout, even bringing out the mischievousness and youth of Romeo and his pals in the market scenes.

Gittens manages to appear and move much younger than her age and acts it out well, so much so, that she is believable as a teenager. She demands the attention when on stage, whether she's depicting Juliet as overjoyed with love, playing with a doll or overcome with unhappiness at losing Romeo.

The choreography when Juliet is confronted by her parents and pressured to accept a marriage proposal by her suitor is unbelievably delicate and emotional. It's the class of MacMillan's work that still stands the test of time. After all, he created this work more than 50 years ago.

Birmingham royal ballet, brb, Romeo and Juliet, Birmingham Hippodrome
Romance and heartbreak in Romeo and Juliet

Normally it's the pas de deux that stand out but as wonderful as those scenes are involving Gittens and Lawrence, the choreography is actually particularly strong in the solo dance sequences for both Juliet and her Romeo.

Added to that is the brilliant score that includes the music now more associated with the theme tune to BBC show The Apprentice. The dramatic ballet steps and group dances fit in with this soundtrack perfectly, making the three hour show completely enthralling.

Birmingham royal ballet, brb, Romeo and Juliet, Birmingham Hippodrome
The mischief and youth of the characters is portrayed in the dance

This is simply traditional ballet at its best, from the narrative choreography to the atmosphere that the opulent scenery creates and the first class Birmingham Royal Ballet talent.

It all makes the story and emotion come alive and leap from the stage into your heart. It's an unmissable treat. Don't miss out,

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Why? See scintillating first class ballet
When: Until June 30
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: From 25
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