Rosie Kay’s Romeo + Juliet is what she calls her ‘love letter to Birmingham’, a sentiment she professes when invited onto the stage prior to the performance by the Hippodrome’s Artistic Director, Fiona Allan. And what better way to welcome audiences back into one of Birmingham’s biggest venues than with a fresh and vibrant adaptation of a classic Shakespeare play, set in the very city it’s performed in.

The opening act sets the tempo for the performance. The dancers are split into two gangs - the C’s and the M’s - and they tease each other as they establish feuds, alliances and unrequited emotion. While most of the gang members show a preoccupation with fighting and drug deals, Romeo and Juliet (Subhash Viman Gorania and Mayowa Ogunnaike) both appear distant from the mounting turmoil, evoking a feeling of longing and misplacement.

Though each act is a work of art in its own right, the best is saved for the love duet. The two protagonists lock eyes across a party, drawing together and apart again like a tidal wave as their friends and fellow gang members intercede them. When finally alone, the pair engage in a stunning performance, spinning around each other and contorting their bodies to fit together like puzzle pieces, increasingly playful and then suddenly serious, as Romeo leads Juliet across the stage to their embrace.

A special mention has to go to Ayesha Fazal, who plays the gutsy Rosa. She is truly captivating as she mocks and goads the C’s, oozing confidence and elegance as she travels across the stage. Her moments in the spotlight are all too fleeting, but the passion and pride she has for her role shine throughout her performance.

Rosie Kay stresses that the cast are co-choreographers in the work they do and, in this premiere of Romeo + Juliet, the Company has produced a well-considered performance. In reimagining a classic tale, the story explores themes of identity and consent, set atop a wider issue of gang violence, to the effect of a culturally relevant dance piece that reflects the diversity of the city that it is set in.

Four stars.

Reviewed by Ellie Hutchings