Young stars step up in contemporary take on a Shakespeare classic

PUBLISHED: 16:26 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:36 01 August 2019

Romeo and Juliet by Sir Matthew Bourne arrives at Sadler's Wells next week. Picture: Johan Persson.

Romeo and Juliet by Sir Matthew Bourne arrives at Sadler's Wells next week. Picture: Johan Persson.

Johan Persson

“When I was little,” Janacek Wood recalls, “my Dad decided it would be fun to take me and my brother sledging down a mountainside in an inflatable kids’ paddling pool. It took off like a hovercraft, he couldn’t stop, hit a tree, and we were catapulted out onto the track below.”

Janacek Wood is one of 12 young dancers set to perform in Romeo + Juliet.Janacek Wood is one of 12 young dancers set to perform in Romeo + Juliet.

In hindsight, this was not a great decision from Mr Wood senior. A much better one, however, was encouraging Janacek, 17, to persevere with his dancing.

Janacek admits that he had some reservations. "At first, I wasn't sure about it. My parents forced me a bit - where I was going to school, dance wasn't very cool." And yet, eight years after he begun, Wood is regarded as one of the most gifted young dancers in the country, about to perform under the direction of Sir Matthew Bourne.

Wood is one of 12 young dancers performing in Romeo + Juliet at Sadler's Wells; a world premiere adaption from Bourne which starts the London leg of its UK tour on Wednesday (August 7) and continues until August 31.

The production, which is aiming to deliver a show "bursting with youth, vitality, and Matthew Bourne's trademark storytelling," will see this crop of young dancers share the stage with professionals from the New Adventures; a company which has 12 Olivier nominations (and six wins) to its name.

Originally from Leeds, Wood relocated to the Shoreditch area about two years ago, and he's a student of Twickenham's Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. He auditioned for the role in Romeo + Juliet alongside more than 1,000 hopefuls in April 2018, when he was aged 16, and you can tell he's excited to get started.

"It means a lot (to be included), as I've been watching Matthew Bourne shows since I was really little. It's quite surreal to be in one of his productions.

"Working with him and New Adventures is an incredible opportunity! Seeing Swan Lake really inspired me to become a professional dancer."

Audiences can catch Wood in action at Sadler's Wells alongside five of his peers (who make up The Capulet Company) until August 18, before a new roster of young performers (The Montague Company) step in and see the production through to its close at the end of the month.

Rehearsals for Bourne's Romeo + Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.Rehearsals for Bourne's Romeo + Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.

Promising "a passionate and contemporary reimagining" of this 16th century story, Bourne said: "After 30 years as a professional choreographer, I look forward to being refreshed and inspired by what this team of young artists will bring to Shakespeare's classic tale of tragic conflict and young love."

Romeo + Juliet is at Sadler's Wells from August 7 to 31. Janacek Wood features between August 7 and 18. For more details and tickets, click here.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Islington Gazette