Breathing a new life and originality into Shakespeare’s much-told tale, Matthew Bourne revives, refines and revises his gripping 2019 re-invention of Romeo and Juliet for this 2023 tour.
There’s innovation and a raw realism here. The action is confined to they grey, grim Verona Institute: part psychiatric facility, part juvenile detention centre. Juliet (Monique Jonas) is already an inmate here, reeling from a sexual assault by the merciless Tybalt (Danny Reubens) when she first sets eyes on Romeo (Rory Macleod), who has been ‘checked in’ by his politically ambitious parents. The pair officially meet at a ball organised by well-meaning vicar, Reverend Lawrence and a desperate dance ensues.
Despite being such a well known story, there are interesting and intriguing departures from the familiar narrative, enough to keep us from becoming complacent and riveting the attention throughout. Bourne is an economic story teller, driving the story down to its necessary parts and propelling the story along apace. There’s little time to breathe, this is edge of the seat stuff. The famous balcony scene is played out on the grey metal ladders and concrete walkways of the dismal institution, the pair evading the guard’s beaming searchlights. Despite knowing what is to come, the ending when it does come, is like a knife to the heart.
The cast are almost entirely clad in white, focussing the attention very much on the dance. There is an exquisite quality to the movement: at times tender, lyrical, passionate, desperate, each artist imbues their character with an electric energy.
As with every Matthew Bourne production, Romeo and Juliet is a perfect sum of its parts, choreography, direction, design, the exquisite dancers. Arresting, affecting, blistering and beguiling – this is one not to be missed.
Runs until 30 September 2023 | Image: Johan Persson