Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House, London

A 'Romeo' without sexual tension, anger or feeling
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Bolshoi Ballet's new Romeo and Juliet was put together by a director, the British Declan Donnellan, working with the Moldavian choreographer Radu Poklitaru. It's ballet without steps and without drama.

The Bolshoi Ballet's new Romeo and Juliet was put together by a director, the British Declan Donnellan, working with the Moldavian choreographer Radu Poklitaru. It's ballet without steps and without drama.

With this Romeo, the Bolshoi is trying to update itself. The company still relies heavily on Soviet-era productions, and it has spent the past few years hunting for new directions. When Donnellan declared an interest in ballet, they were eager to accept.

The society of Shakespeare's play is barely sketched, with Montagues and Capulets indistinguishable. Instead, a featureless corps de ballet lurks about the stage, standing between the lovers or forcing them apart.

Poklitaru's choreography is a grey abstraction. He avoids naturalistic gesture, but he avoids dance steps, too. The corps rock from side to side, thrust their hips or sink to the floor. At one point, they rush in wearing Sergeant Pepper satin uniforms. The lovers twitch like frogs, run in circles or laugh aloud.

You can't care for Donnellan's characters; it's as much as I could do to recognise them. Late on, I suddenly realised that Juliet was dancing with Friar Lawrence, not with her fiancé Paris. (The dog collar gave it away.)

Mercutio has no swagger, though he turns up at the ball in drag. Juliet's cousin Tybalt flirts with him, and is humiliated to realise that he has kissed another man. But there's no sexual tension, no anger, no feeling. When the Bolshoi first visited the West in the 1950s, the great revelation was their passion and intensity in the Lavrovsky production of Romeo. Donnellan's is blankly characterised.

Donnellan does make confident use of the stage space, left clear by Nicholas Ormerod's minimalist scenery.

Donnellan has cut and rearranged Prokofiev's score, and the Bolshoi's own orchestra, conducted by Pavel Klinichev, manages to maintain momentum. The company do look alert. Maria Alexandrova dances with more attack as Juliet than she showed as the heroine of Don Quixote. Denis Savin looks young and eager. Ilze Liepa makes something of Lady Capulet through sheer force of personality, looming over this choreography.



Comments