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Romeo and Juliet

A scene from Romeo and Juliet. photo: Andy Ross
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Austere in its design and spiky yet fluidly modern in its choreography, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo and Juliet is a real change of mood for Northern Ballet.

Created for Les Ballet de Monte Carlo and getting its UK premiere, Maillot’s light, airy choreography leaps and twists over Northern Ballet’s long-standing, theatrical version by Gable and Morricone. It suits the company too, focusing on movement and emotion in Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s open, timeless set – suffused with warm, Mediterranean light by Dominique Drillot’s design.

The whole is framed by Isaac Lee-Baker’s Friar Lawrence, skittering with tiny steps and punctilious attention to movement. This is his guilty recollection of events. A concept which works – to a point.

The big ensemble scenes are fluid with action. Giuliano Contadini (Romeo), Matthew Koon (Mercutio) and Sean Bates (Benviolio) and the quartet of Montague women ensure the dynamics of their exchanges are pulsing with lust – on both sides.

The feelings between Contadini and Martha Leebolt’s Juliet brim over in the ball scene, as they battle through the surrounding, distracting dancers to start an illicit pas de deux that brilliantly continues in the balcony scene. And when death comes storming in, with the mortal fight between Koon’s chirpy Mercutio and Javier Torres’ strutting, muscle-bound Tybalt, the whole drops into a dreadful slow-motion.

Where the framing device slips is in its telling of the final acts of the Friar’s deception over coma-inducing potions and suicide. It simply isn’t clear, so the Friar and Juliet’s pas de deux feels over-extended and the climax somewhat baffling.

Dates: February 26-28, PN February 26, then touring until March 12

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Austerely modern ballet version of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is airy with emotion