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Romeo and Juliet review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘lacks sizzle’

Matthew Ball and Lauren Cuthbertson in Romeo and Juliet at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Helen Maybanks
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Kenneth MacMillan brought psychological depth and sexual passion to the classical repertoire with his first three-act ballet. Not that you’d know it from this latest revival.

The orchestra seems below par with Prokofiev’s lush and lilting score sneaking out of the pit like a timid child rather than the masterful adult it is. The hustle and bustle of the opening scene that sets up the tremendous sword fight between the Montagues and the Capulets is listless and de-energised, though Christina Arestis is a memorably imperious Rosaline.

Not until Lauren Cuthbertson darts on to the stage and lands in her Nurse’s lap is the production invested with personality. She carries this Romeo and Juliet from then on, assisted by Valentino Zucchetti’s lively Mercutio and an unusually sombre Tybalt from Gary Avis.

Although Matthew Ball’s Romeo is a strong partner, lifting Cuthbertson overhead with ease and displaying a satisfying technical precision, he exhibits an anodyne anonymity throughout. All the passion and sex derives from Cuthbertson, who journeys from Juliet-in-Wonderland innocence to tragedy with utter conviction. Whether bourree-ing backwards at warp speed to escape the clutches of Ryoichi Hirano’s Paris, feigning a headache to avoid an unwanted kiss or flinging herself into paroxysms of grief in the final moments, she is never less than dazzling.

Elsewhere, MacMillan’s trio of harlots exude saucy insouciance and the Mandolin Dance is led with some flair by Marcelino Sambé but the thing as a whole lacks sizzle. Someone needs to turn the gas up.

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Lauren Cuthbertson illuminates a production that is disappointingly short on passion