Romeo and Juliet – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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romeo and juliet

Romeo and Juliet – Review

Bradford Alhambra, October 2016

by Sandra Callard

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is probably the best known tragic love story ever written. It has been adapted for screen, stage, television, radio and book, and is now touring on stage with the superlative Leeds-based Northern Ballet. The story needs no telling, but the varying presentations of this evergreen tragedy assume countless proportions. Northern Ballet now adds one more at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.

Northern Ballet dancers in Romeo and JulietShockingly stark initially, the stage is a standing collection of white, ivory and grey concave and convex boards. When tragedy looms, a black one is introduced. The only nod to scenery is a sketchy piece of material over a board to resemble a bed. It is a simple but remarkably effective device.

“Exemplary attention to detail”

The outstanding Martha Leebolt, the heroine of so many ballets, dances Juliet. She seems to shine brighter with each performance. Some may say she is too old to dance Juliet. Well, of course she is. But who isn’t? Juliet is only 14. But Leebolt’s performance defies age and, indeed, gravity. We truly see a young girl in her happy and adventurous teens. She is sheer perfection. This time she is ably partnered by Giuliano Contadini, who matches her step for step. His heart-rending death scene is simply wonderful.

Northern Ballet dancers in Les Ballets de Monte Carlo's Romeo and Juliet

Mlindi Kulashe takes the surprising role of Friar Laurence. He is a young black dancer whose precision performance reaches the very tips of his fingers. He has two acolytes with him most of the time. Their exemplary attention to detail is also extraordinary. They appear weightless, and move with a grace which all dancers aim to achieve. But Laurence is not the kindly elderly friar we may be familiar with. Kulashe’s Laurence is a stealthily eerie clergyman, gliding sinuously and effortlessly between walls and people. He perpetually works on his next move for the aid of the young lovers. Kulashe is totally hypnotic. He dashes to pieces the familiar version of Friar Laurence, and makes him one of the most interesting dancers on the stage.

Northern Ballet dancers in Romeo and Juliet

“Utterly spellbinding”

Romeo’s friends, Mercutio (Matthew Koon) and Benvolio (Simon Bates) do a great job in both stirring up trouble and trying to cool it down. Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, is a toweringly aggressive figure who you just know will instigate bloodshed. Fine support all round – and all are worthy members of this elite ballet company.

With such a plain and austere stage setting it is occasionally hard to get an inkling of the next scene. For a moment I actually think they have courageously missed out the famous balcony scene. But no, there it is, heavily disguised, slightly deconstructed, but, in fact, beautifully done. Without the famous words, the glorious music and dance took its place.

The score is by Sergei Prokofiev. Co-Director, Choreographer and Costume Design is by the wonderful David Nixon OBE. A plethora of the top creative talent in the country lay behind the scenes. Therefore, you expect that this production will not fall short of its fine reputation. Well, this most certainly is the case. The company produces a performance that is utterly spellbinding.

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