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Posted on Wed 06 Oct 2021
For someone who loves the arts, I must admit to having greatly missed the ballet during the last eighteen months. To have the opportunity to welcome back Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) to the stage on their home turf at Birmingham Hippodrome was an absolute delight. And it was a feeling shared as the audience was given a hearty warm welcome by BRB Director, Carlos Acosta, who was clearly moved - and a bit relieved, to see the audience return.
BRB’s rendition of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet is everything I was hoping for. If you want sumptuousness and food for the soul, this is most certainly it.
The production is both powerful and dramatic as we journey through the familiar story of those two fateful star crossed lovers - Romeo (César Morales) and Juliet (Momoko Hirata). Divided into three acts and with two intervals, the audience is transported to a bygone age where love, life and death could change on a sword point.
There is something particularly special about this production. It soon becomes apparent that enormous care and dedication has been handed over to creating the right level of spectacle, carefully constructing the tone and delights of early Renaissance Verona. The set design by Paul Andrews is opulent but for me its is the costumes that steal the show. They are the most sumptuous I have seen in any performance - I couldn’t keep my eyes off them.
Prokofiev's dramatic musical score (recognised nowadays from TV show The Apprentice) is performed by the talented Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
The many sword fights are breathtakingly well staged and the cast move as one as they each perform the many highly skilled, and seemingly effortless dance routines, which of course take a career to perfect. I really liked that the non-principal cast - the many talented ‘ballroom guests and townspeople’ were given bountiful time on stage to showcase their craft outside the shadows of the core performers. It felt democratic, inclusive and made us consciously aware that this production is not just for now, but has an eye to the future. From my vantage point in the front circle, it was hard not to be swept away by the playful Montague possé, the prideful Tybalt, the riotously good harlots, and of course, Romeo and Juliet and their respective family members.
As one would expect, the many death scenes are suitably hammed up, a little too panto for my liking, but definitely deserving of an Oscar. Some of the set changes are a bit clunky, a bit too loud and take too long, leaving the audience slightly bemused, but given the performance is so strong, the audience are quick to forgive.
If you are looking for something that is without doubt, simply sumptuous, then this is it.
Four stars. Reviewed by Stephen Spinks
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