Matthew Bourne’s new take on Shakespeare’s tale of doomed teenage love dispenses with the Montague/Capulet family feud and recasts its protagonists as inmates at the Verona Institute, a grimly clinical juvenile unit (a white-tiled and metal-fenced creation by designer Lez Brotherston), the exact purpose of which is unclear.
These areas of niggling narrative vagueness are generally made up for by the superb performance of this second cast, who charge Bourne’s choreography with tightly wound intensity and individualised character quirks.
As with the first cast – reviewed earlier in the month – this lineup sees junior members of New Adventures (such as Seren Williams as Juliet) perform leading roles alongside more experienced company dancers (including Andrew Monaghan as Romeo).
The focus is on youth – fittingly, a batch of newly-minted company members are joined at each venue on its forthcoming tour by a local cast of dancers still in training – and the force of adolescent feeling surges through it all.
Cleverly, Bourne avoids having his lovers soar on the lyrical heights of Prokofiev’s score (expertly and punchily re-orchestrated for 15 musicians by Terry Davies). Instead, the excellent Monaghan and Williams imbue their duets with gawky angles, grappling floorwork and a massively prolonged snog.
He’s the twitchily neurotic son of a slimy senator, newly dispatched to the institution to preserve smooth political optics, while Juliet is already an inmate, who has been forcibly subject to Tybalt’s sexual attentions. Her oddly torqued, shuddering disgust after this encounter is conveyed so poignantly, as is Romeo’s bewildered solitariness.
As Mercutio, Ben Brown is an effortlessly charismatic leader of larky badinage with his boyfriend Balthasar (Asher Rosenheim) and Benvolio (Joao Carolino), while Danny Reubens shows something of the pathetic despair and self-hatred that fuels Tybalt’s loathsome, unpredictable violence.