Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells: The most impassioned and inspired interpretation of this timeless tragic romance
Choreographer and director Matthew Bourne’s brilliant new incarnation of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet – a tale of love obstructed by society – is also about rebellion against tyranny and conformity. In a world in which the young are drugged and trained to be obedient and passive, true love is subversive.
New Adventures’ magnificently dynamic production features breathtaking dancing expressed with captivating emotion and passion. An intriguing rendition of Prokofiev’s music (Terry Davies) intensifies an Orwellian atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty. A powerful Dance of the Knights opening the show to a procession of white-costumed drone-like youths in formation evokes repressed adolescent sexuality.
Dancers portraying teenagers confined in a prison-like correctional facility for failing to conform – surrounded by bars and armed guards – form a stark contrast to Romeo and Juliet’s charming, spontaneous and impetuous ardour. Romeo has been abandoned and institutionalised by his callous, ambitious, self-serving parents (Matt Petty, Madelaine Brennan). Juliet is a sensitive spirit he meets at a party – their fervid chemistry is palpable, while the innocent sweetness of their attraction beguiles, particularly evinced in their moving balcony scene pas de deux.
An instigator of tragedy, the bullying Tybalt – here an aggressive, thuggish, abusive guard obsessed with Juliet – is compellingly played by Danny Reubens. Serving to highlight the horror of totalitarianism and the injustice of forced systems in opposition to guileless love and the natural world, his rape of Juliet is a new and brutal addition.
Seren Williams performs Juliet with exquisite grace and emotion, while Andrew Monaghan’s Romeo is poignantly intense. With flawless technique, their joyful and stirring interactions are heart-stopping. Costumes (Lez Brotherton) are effectively unconventional: contemporary or bland “utopian” in white and black. Invoking potential locational multiplicity with open and shut portals, Brotherton’s set is impressively stark and simple.
Fascinating and multi-faceted, Matthew Bourne’s choreography is thought-provoking and seamless. His Romeo and Juliet is possibly the most impassioned and inspired interpretation of this timeless tragic romance to date. It is a tour de force, beautifully danced, a piece that will impact your consciousness and stay with you.
Photo: Johan Persson
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is at Sadler’s Wells from 7th until 31st August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Romeo and Juliet here: