For the Royal Ballet’s first run of shows in a UK arena, it isn’t doing things by halves. Taking over the 02 for three nights, the venue resonates with a music concert atmosphere.
Carlos Acosta (Romeo) and Tamara Rojo (Juliet) in Romeo and Juliet at the O2 Centre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
A shambolic entry system means that curtain-up is delayed, and latecomers clutching plastic pints of beer and hotdogs are drip fed in through the first act.
It’s a fun, if slightly chaotic vibe, and it seems many of the punters in this 20,000-seat venue aren’t the usual Royal Opera House locals; the ballet is truly being bought to the masses.
And what a ballet. The Royal Ballet has really pulled out all the stops for Kenneth Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet. The swordfight scenes are dangerous and exciting, and the group dances lively and bustling as costumes of burnt orange, dusky pink and olive green (design by Nicholas Georgiadis) whirl around the stage.
Tamara Rojo plays perfectly the immature Juliet, who progresses so dramatically through her first experiences of love and lust. Her partnership with Carlos Acosta as Romeo (veering between gawky teenager and bold young man) is dynamite, their chemistry convincing.
The downside of a production on such a massive scale is that those sitting in the back (or even the middle) can barely see the dancers on the stage. It’s like being at the opera house in Verona, where the performers are dots and the stage dusty and hard to light.
However, opera is less reliant on the visual. To get around it with ballet, there are three screens broadcasting the performance, interspersed with short films by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt of the Balletboyz.
While this allows you a good look at the minutae usually missed in a normal production, it’s difficult to focus on the stage action - which is surely the whole point of this epic escapade. Otherwise you might as well just buy the DVD.