Review: Cas Public – Symphonie Dramatique - Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH

Performance: 23 - 26 September 2015
Reviewed by Siobhan Murphy - Friday 25 September 2015

Cas Public – 'Symphonie Dramatique'. Photo: Damian Siquieros

Performance reviewed 23 September

To complement the 50th anniversary revival of Kenneth Macmillan’s Romeo And Juliet , the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre offers Symphonie Dramatique, a very different dance take on the tale of star cross’d lovers, from Montreal’s Cas Public.

Compressed to 55 minutes, this is Romeo And Juliet deconstructed to the point that without random lines from the play being projected on to the back wall (or sometimes bawled by one of the cast) and the shreds of Prokofiev’s score that loom out of the mashed-up backing track, you would have absolutely no idea that was the work being referenced.

It’s certainly energetic. Artistic director Helene Blackburn’s athletic team of eight skilled dancers, dressed in simple black and white, put on a punishing display of frantically paced modern ballet, flecked with the odd street dance influence. The choreographic language soon starts to seem fairly limited, though; minimalist and precise, yes, but over-reliant on emphatic arm gestures, lacking nuance and largely stuck in one tempo.

And as we pinball around the play – one minute we’re apparently in the balcony scene, some time later the projection announces ‘Act 1 Scene 1 Tybalt’ – there’s no sense that Blackburn is drawing out its themes for closer investigation. The dance is so disengaged from its context that it has no real emotional thrust, no incisiveness. Maybe as a result of the hectic pace, there is a sometimes quite vivid sense of violent anger, but without any clear narrative hook it just dissipates. And apart from one bout of couples wrangling on plain black benches, it’s hard to discern that there’s a love story in here at all. Disappointing.

Continues at Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House until Saturday 26 September

Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer and editor, who also contributes to Dancetabs and Time Out. Find her on Twitter @blacktigerlily

Photos: Damian Siquieros

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