A classic tale lovingly told, but lacking innovation.
As a relative newcomer to Leicester, this was my first trip to The Y. I was initially surprised to see this small, charming central venue hosting ballet but this was pleasantly put right upon entering the busy bar to see a good crowd gathering. In fact, this is what Ballet Theatre UK have been doing for over three years; touring the length and breadth of the country showcasing ballet to audiences who might not otherwise see it.
Opening onto a simple set, the young cast set the scene in classic costumes. Oliver Cooper playing Romeo is instantly charming, capturing – with his band of Montague mates – the youthful energy of the piece which many productions of Romeo and Juliet often forget. His Juliet, Erin McNeill, is played with an endearing vulnerability, but missing some of the charisma and cheek of this classic character. The pivotal ball scene where our lovers first meet didn’t match the expectations the magnificent music created; over-choreographed, many of the dancers were waiting in position rather than making the most of the swift and clever interventions the scene offers.
Mercutio and Lady Capulet are the stars of the show, standing out individually and in their secretive, side-line duets. A strange directorial choice to have the majority of the cast on stage at all times leaves many performers over-playing back-ground mimes, creating the impression of a poor ensemble competing for and taking attention away from the central action. They are clearly a very talented cast who need greater direction. On the whole, juvenile wobbles like this can be forgiven in this performance, made up for by the ambition of the cast.
This Romeo and Juliet is undeniably engaging for it’s audiences but I wonder if more risk could have taken in it’s staging and direction? Here we are presented with the opportunity to not only confront these young performers understanding of what it is to re-stage a classic tale but also challenge the audience’s pre-conceptions of what contemporary ballet can be, when it’s not £50 a ticket in a 2000 seater auditorium?