Review: The Welsh Ballet, Romeo and Juliet

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It is always a treat to go and watch live theatre and after a hiatus from the Dukes over the summer, renewing my love of regular theatre was the latest production of Romeo and Juliet, and it was a good one to start with. The newest creation which is a collaboration between Ballet Cymru, Coreo Cymru and The Riverfront in Newport which featured stunning choreography and integrated new multimedia elements.

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As promised, the production “pushes the boundaries of classical ballet” by including various dance elements such as a group dance where many of the characters remain masked. These masks are not only quite foreboding and sinister but perhaps represent the animosity between the Montagues and the Capulets as this scene ends in the double murder of Tybalt and Mercutio to close Act One.

Throughout the performance, the factions of the Montagues and the Capulets are demonstrated through a different light and dark costuming; the Montagues represented in colours and the Capulets represented by ominous tones for their progressively dark characters as Juliet’s parents force her into an arranged marriage. The use of light and dark also translated into the lighting used to represent the tone of different scenes. Romantic and whimsical scenes such as Romeo and Juliet on Juliet’s balcony were filled with colour and light whereas fight scenes opted for dark tones which accurately related the mood of the stage and thus the drama.
Although at first, a mute ballet performance was hard to follow, it forced the audience to pay more attention to the actions and thoughts of the characters that are excellently translated through the facial expressions and body language of the performers. One particular moment which demonstrated the performer’s skill is that of the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet; of which their feelings for one another are translated to the audience within a single look.

That said, without previous knowledge of the story of Romeo and Juliet, it could have been hard to follow, especially when parts of the story are missed out, including Romeo’s former love, Rosaline. Or, the critical moment where Friar Laurence races to send a message to Romeo to inform him of Juliet’s plan to avoid marrying Paris, only to fail leading Romeo to believe that Juliet committed suicide. The audience lost the skill of the performance while confused by the plot.

The merits of the play, however, included the use of extraordinary video projections and multimedia to help construct the sets and scenes and allow the audience to understand the plot of the ballet. Including, the projection of a stained glass window to create the view of Friar Laurence’s church or the projection of a balcony for the beautiful scene where Romeo and Juliet declare their love for one another. The talent of the performers, of course, was incredible with their dance and performance skills, particularly those of Romeo and Juliet who beautifully portrayed this bittersweet tragedy and translated the love of this young couple correctly.

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