Romeo and Juliet, Coliseum, London
Friday 07 January 2011
English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet is hard work. Rudolf Nureyev, who created it for this company in 1977, could always squeeze in one more step, one more plot point, until he barely has room for his star-crossed lovers. The dancers pour energy into this Romeo, but they can't make it engaging.
Nureyev is eager to stress the Renaissance settings. By the end of the overture, we've had dice-throwing fates and a plague cart. He turns Shakespeare's metaphors into weirdly literal images. Juliet says, "to my wedding bed, And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead" – so a man in a skull mask jumps on her at the start of Act III.
There's the same overload in the dances. Romeo's solos are particularly fussy, but ENB's rising star Vadim Muntagirov negotiates them smoothly. With his clear line and high, light jumps, he even manages to add a touch of lyricism.
Daria Klimentova is a quick, clear Juliet, dancing with delicate attack. But Nureyev reduces Juliet's role, surrounding her with other characters. When she decides to take the potion, she has to grapple with the ghosts of Mercutio and Tybalt. Klimentova dances this scene with drugged, dreamy weight.
Juan Rodriguez, replacing an injured Yat-Sen Chang, makes a vigorous, bright-eyed Mercutio. With good timing and a bouncy jump, he does what he can with the repetitive comedy. Fabian Reimair is a swaggering Tybalt.
Nureyev's overcrammed pudding of a ballet is all incident, without dramatic weight or point, but the dancers perform tirelessly.
Ezio Frigerio's handsome designs draw on Piero della Francesca's painting of the Ideal City, lit with spacious warmth by Tharon Musser. Gavin Sutherland conducts ENB's own orchestra in a bright performance of Prokofiev's score.
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