Romeo and Juliet

Scottish Ballet

The curtain lifts on a dimly lit stage. Motionless figures are silhouetted against an illuminated backdrop, showing a street scene in Rome, overlaid with flickering images of Rome’s post-war landscape and people.  Welcome to Scottish Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet, a production as far away from tutus and romantic frippery as it’s possible to get.  Choreographed especially for Scottish Ballet, the only thing recognisable from traditional productions is the fantastic Prokofiev score played with joyous precision by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.

In this modern retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, the Capulets are a strutting, fascistic black-shirted force, the Montagues, left-wing agitators. The action spans three different time periods – the 1930s, 50s and 90s – underpinning the universality of the message, that in every time people find themselves torn between love and loyalty, old feuds and the unrealised possibility of reconciliation.

Throughout the taut first act, the story unfolds with scenes of high drama punctuated by points of exquisite stillness.  In one spine-tingling moment, the entire cast drops to the floor as one to reveal the lone figure of Juliet at the back – it’s our first glimpse of her, and utterly mesmerising.  Dressed in a short, gossamer-light dress emphasising the youth and innocence of her character, Sophie Martin brings out the vulnerability of Juliet, and transposes it into strength by the end of the ballet.

The familiar strains of the Montagues and Capulets theme (you know, this one ) is matched with strong, angular movements, macho leaps and posturing, expressing the power and intent of these warring families.  This contrasts with the delicacy of the pas de deux between Romeo and Juliet, the most astonishingly intimate of which is the bedroom scene at the start of act III.

Scottish Ballet

The ballet doesn’t sugar the pill of the tragedy of death, from harrowing real-life scenes on the screen to the stage deaths of Mercurio, Tybalt and, eventually, Romeo and Juliet themselves. Romeo’s pain is palpable as he returns to Juliet’s lifeless body again and again, lifts and carries her before placing her back on the bed and killing himself. When she stirs, half-pinned by Romeo’s prone form, it’s heartbreaking as she discovers her lover dead and takes her own life.  There’s no light relief from the emotional intensity; the grieving families leave the stage, unreconciled, and the curtain drops.

There’s still time to catch this terrific show! It plays in Glasgow until April 24th, then goes to Aberdeen, Inverness and Belfast.


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