Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet @ Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham Royal Ballet certainly know how to put on a show. Here a packed first night audience from first timers to top London critics were treated to a live spectacle that just got better and better through scene after eye-popping scene.

Jenna Roberts as Juliet and Iain Mackay as Romeo. Pic: Roy Smiljanic

Jenna Roberts as Juliet and Iain Mackay as Romeo. Pic: Roy Smiljanic

Most performances have highlights. This Romeo and Juliet seemed nothing but, filled with extreme choreographic expression that led to roars of approval at its final curtain from a packed first-night crowd ranging from new converts to top London critics.

The genius of Shakespeare’s play is that although you know what tragedies are coming, its characters are so imbued with life that they seem invulnerable. But this more than most productions presents the tragedy in all its terrible poignancy; it didn’t have to happen. And the play makes the deaths the occasion for the feuding to end – Macmillan’s ballet leaves us with what seems only a personal loss.

This journey to despair set to Prokofiev’s urgent score is quite simply one highlight after another. From its sunlit opening filled with the bustling life of Verona’s plaza where young bloods mingle with merchants and flirt with tarts to its tragic torchlit conclusion this production dazzles.

Highlights include The Capulets’ magnificent ball, the exquisite balcony scene suffused by moonlight, the hot midday swordfight that ends in the tragedy of Mercutio’s death, the dark horrors of the charnel house.

This outstandingly accomplished evening was packed with stars, some firmly established, some newly created before our eyes. Marion Tait was superb as the old nurse to whom Juliet is more dear than the daughter she lost.

Tyrone Singleton was austerely perfect as the fiery Tybalt, cold, deadly and implacable. Michael O’Hare as Lord Capulet was fittingly dignified as the head of a great clan while Mathias Dingman’s joyous portrayal of Romeo’s tragic friend Mercutio made his death even more heart-stoppingly unexpected. Iain McKay, totally inhabiting the role of Romeo with unbearable poignancy, made his brief flight from boyhood to despairing death both beautiful and agonising to watch.

But it was Jenna Roberts as Juliet who quite rightly stole the show. Her awakening to love, her agonies at being forced to marry and her despair leading to the final unalterable step were marvellous, expressed in choreographic extremes urgently conveying this girl-child’s agony.

Beg, steal, borrow or even buy a ticket, but don’t miss this.

Romeo and Juliet runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (February 27). For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

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