REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Music: Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography: Krzysztof Pastor

Design: Tatyana van Walsum

Often credited as the most inventive full length ballet ever created, Scottish Ballet returns with vibrant re-interpretation of the much-loved classic Romeo and Juliet.

From Sergei Prokofiev’s 52-piece score and William Shakespeare’s original narrative, Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor and dramaturg Willem Bruls have “pruned discretely” many of the incidental numbers and a few of the most familiar characters from the piece: there’s no Paris, no Nurse and no Escalus here, instead the focus is firmly placed on the central story of the ‘star cross’d lovers’ and their warring families. Set in the 30s, 50s and 90s, this revival of the pair’s 2008 production asks the audience the question: “are they the same lovers in every era or a new generation suffering the same old problem?”

In any narrative ballet the movement must tell the story and in trimming the extraneous distractions Pastor infuses the work with greater passion and realism and heightens the tension throughout. Credit must be given to the impressive realism with which Pastor has imbued the fight scenes, something which is often lacking in classical interpretations of the piece.

Erik Cavallari (Romeo) and Sophie Martin (Juliet) reprise the roles created on them in 2008 and both retain the same passion and focus for their characters. Martin skilfully develops Juliet from impetuous teenager to grown woman during the course of the ballet and Cavallari is a noble and dignified Romeo: both remain utterly captivating throughout. In support, Victor Zarallo has many scene-stealing moments as a mercurial Mercutio as does Christopher Harrison as a powerful Tybalt and Eve Mutso and Owen Thorne make a suitably regal, elegant and imposing pair as Juliet’s parents.

From the earthy toned costumes of the Montagues to the Fascist black-shirted Capulets to the series of projected backdrops that move from Mussolini’s 1930s through the la dolce vita 1950s (there’s more than a whiff of that other famous Romeo and Juliet adaptation West Side Story in this sequence) to Berlusconi’s 1990s, there’s much to please the eye and plenty of subtle detail, but those looking for a romantic ivy strewn balcony are in for a disappointment, replaced as it is by a minimalist, aluminium lift-like structure.

Special mention must be made of the impeccable playing of Prokofiev’s beautiful, soaring score by the orchestra of Scottish Ballet. The score sounds as fresh as the day it was written and there is a genuine spine-tingling, hairs on the back of the neck moment as the first notes of the Dance of the Knights ring out from the orchestra pit.

This is a sure-fire hit, sparkling with life and suffused with drama and with Prokofiev’s exquisite score and Pastor’s highly inventive choreography you won’t fail to be captivated from start to finish.

Runs until 26 April then touring
Image: Andrew Ross

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