Review: Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson. - Credit: Archant

Matthew Bourne is the master par excellence in the re-interpretation of classics... and who could guess how he would present Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson. - Credit: Archant

The opening scene is a shiny white tiled wall in front of which stands a trolley bearing two shrouded bodies, which is then wheeled away. Is it a morgue?

No, it's the "Verona Institute", minimalist and clinically white with stairs swooping down from a gantry. The entrances are marked BOYS and GIRLS and we are not sure if it's a psychiatric hospital, a borstal or a prison.

Young people in white dash around in frenzied groups. Juliet is a terrified waif, the Guard Tybalt (Dan Wright) a menacing thug in black relentlessly abuses her. Within minutes we are gripped and holding our breath.

The drama co-exists with humour: Romeo in preppy chinos and blazer is delivered to this mayhem by his uptight parents, the Senator and Mrs Montague; he is deftly and comically undressed and re-dressed in institutional whites by the athletic Mercutio (Ben Brown - the understudy who stepped in at 15 minutes notice), Balthasar(Jackson Fisch) and Benvolio (Harrison Dowell).

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson. - Credit: Archant


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Daisy May Kemp (who doubles as Romeo's mother) provides delicious comic relief as a jolly reverend playing the organ during the party scene. With brilliant choreography the 1950s style social shifts to full-on raunch when the adults leave the room.

Romeo (Paris Fitzpatrick) and his exquisite Juliet (Cordelia Brathwaite) are visibly desperate to be together. Their first kiss seems endless as they traverse the stage and roll across the floor with their lips locked. Their passion and their tragic deaths are intensely moving.

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Lez Brotherston's simple set is the perfect foil for the hugely energetic young dancers and the orchestra of 15 play Prokofiev's powerful score with great panache. Matthew Bourne has given us an overwhelmingly emotional production that quite literally takes our breath away.

Rating: 5/5 Stars.

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson.

Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Johan Persson. - Credit: Archant

Continues at Sadlers Wells until August 31. More details and tickets here.

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