Review: Royal Ballet in Romeo & Juliet at Canary Wharf, BP Summer Big Screen

Performance: 1 June 2008
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Tuesday 3 June 2008

Opening up the Opera House.

With BP Big Screens around the country, Romeo and Juliet entertained audiences in the drizzle, on a cold grey Sunday afternoon. Renaissance Italy illuminated city squares and greens in Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool and London, to name but a few, giving the opportunity for thousands to view Kenneth MacMillan’s choreographic interpretation of the Shakespeare’s tragedy.

This profound love story, known by many, tells the story of feuding families, star crossed lovers and ill-fated ends. The intensity and drama of the Royal Ballet’s well-trodden favourite is forever indebted to Sergey Prokofiev’s famous score. The surging strings swelled in the ballroom with the infamous Dance of the Knights passages but the wind section soon had hearts floating upon a lightly drifting cloud in the lovers’ scenes.

The shocking element to this run of Romeo and Juliet was not just the wide spectrum of audience members but the knowledge that this is Sarah Lamb’s debut as Juliet. Her light, delicate portrayal of this doomed heroine could not be faulted – she brought technical excellence coupled with girlish charm to the role. Lamb’s ability to appear both doll like and lovelorn must have been an excellent glimpse into the world of ballet for the many new comes to the genre present.

The lovers first meeting was intense and believable. The balcony duet long limbed and heart rendering. But the fight scenes will always remain fencing in tights – not really the macho image intended or desired. Viacheslav Samodurov’s Romeo was a little on the effeminate side especially as this is often championed as the most demanding role for the male dancer, but on the whole the leading couple’s partnership worked.

The screening of this ballet included interviews with ex dancers, tours of the Opera House and 40-second interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, created mainly by school children. This was all out accessibility, maybe a little over zealous – especially with the title pages between scenes, showing a lack of confidence in the choreography’s ability to hold the narrative.

The choice to show Romeo and Juliet on the BP Big Screen, after last year’s spectacle of Swan Lake was a brave choice. The two ballets differ dramatically in style, costuming and quality. Swan Lake, with its classical tutu-wearing ballerina was a much safer bet that Romeo and Juliet, but this gamble paid off. This ballet may not have stereotypical features, which audiences tend to connect to the genre, but looking across the luxurious grass at Canary Warf, London, the crowd seemed simply engrossed.

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