REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet, Sunderland Empire, until March 19
The Bard meets ballet meets the Black Cats in this soaring production of Romeo and Juliet.
Anyone who’s been to see SAFC play will be familiar with the Dance of the Knights, a pre-match anthem at the Stadium of Light, but Prokofiev’s classic track brings even more goosebumps when performed live.
The great composer’s music is in the more than capable hands of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia who provide a hauntingly heartrending accompaniment to this Birmingham Royal Ballet revived interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.
And it’s this thundering piece of music that plays as the world’s most famous lovers meet for the first time, thus setting in motion a tragic chain of events.
For anyone unsure of ballet, this familiar tale is the perfect introduction to the art form with its easy to follow narrative.
In the roles of our star-crossed lovers are Yaoqian Shang as Juliet and César Morales as her Romeo. The pair strike a perfect balance: Yaoqian is a fluid and emotive Juliet to César’s commanding and dashing Romeo.
The scenes in which the pair move together are captivating, convincing and, at times, utterly heart-breaking as he dances with her limp body, believing his one true love is dead.
Though this Shakespearean tale has one of the most devastatingly beautiful endings in story history, there are lighter moments. These are mostly provided by the ballroom and market place scenes with Romeo, Mercutio (Max Maslen) and Benvolio (Brandon Lawrence).
As a trio, the athletic pals dance with cocky abandon as they cause a stir in the street scenes. It makes Mercutio’s death, following a gritty battle with Tybalt (Rory Mackay), all the more moving as someone so full of life and cheeky charm slinks to the floor.
The action takes place against an imposingly sumptuous set that transports you to the pulsating streets of Verona and makes the Empire stage seem almost double in size thanks to its detailed depth.
As the tale of tragedy unfolds, Juliet seems to grow from a starry-eyed slip of a girl to a woman in love before our eyes and she commands your attention as she boldly refuses to marry Paris.
It is, of course, in Romeo’s arms where she belongs and it’s as the lovers move together in their duets, almost as one, with impeccable footwork that this ballet really tugs on your heart strings.