Romeo and Juliet, The Coliseum, London
Star-crossed lovers left jilted by Nureyev's fiddly details
Wednesday 12 January 2005
English National Ballet's colourful
Romeo and Juliet is a mixture of gusto and fuss. Rudolf Nureyev's production, created for this company in 1977, has been very popular. This revival has real sweep, with lively performances and splendid Renaissance designs but the choreography has too many bright ideas, too much fiddly detail. It doesn't always leave room for the star-crossed lovers.
English National Ballet's colourful Romeo and Juliet is a mixture of gusto and fuss. Rudolf Nureyev's production, created for this company in 1977, has been very popular. This revival has real sweep, with lively performances and splendid Renaissance designs but the choreography has too many bright ideas, too much fiddly detail. It doesn't always leave room for the star-crossed lovers.
Nureyev's emphasis on the Renaissance is the brightest of his ideas. Ezio Frigerio dresses the feuding families in rich, layered fabrics - green for Montagues and red for Capulets. His grandly spacious Verona echoes 15th-century designs for the ideal city. Nureyev fills it with bustle and banners. The street brawls are juicily done, with savage swipes and bawdy gestures.
In going back to the Renaissance, Nureyev also went back to Shakespeare. He includes scenes left out by most balletic Romeos , which follow the scenario laid down by Prokofiev's score. In this version, we don't just see Juliet take her sleeping potion: we see Romeo receiving the false news of her death. It makes the plot clear, but musically it's very peculiar.
Other scenes are expanded and decorated. In deciding to take her potion, Juliet is manhandled by the ghosts of Tybalt and Mercutio. Daria Klimentová is a boldly dramatic Juliet; I wish they'd leave her to get on with it.
If Nureyev's plotting is busy, his dance scenes are more so. Romeo comes on, a lovesick youth, only to dash through a solo crammed with classroom steps. It's forced choreography; the dancers have to strain against the music to fit it all in.
Even so, the dancing is vivid. Klimentová gives a quick, mercurial performance, pouncing on moments of drama. She gives Juliet's despair a stark, heroic force. Dmitri Gruzdyev, her Romeo, is lighter, smoothing Nureyev's wrenching solos into elegance.
The company are on vigorous form. Yat-Sen Chang's Mercutio emphasises quirks and contrasts in his steps. Laura Hussey is a bouncy, obviously youthful Nurse. Jane Haworth is a fierce, pointed Lady Capulet, while Paul Lewis, as her husband, moves with gravity. Martin West conducted an energetic performance by the Orchestra of English National Ballet.
Until 15 January. Box office 020 7632 8300
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