Ballet Cymru: Romeo a Juliet review – full-throttle fights in the valleys

New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme
This nimble company has scaled Shakespeare back to suit its 12 dancers, and in Danila Marzilli they have a knockout Juliet

Ballet Cymru’s energetic Romeo a Juliet contains cagoules, clog dancing and a best mate called Cerys. Choreographed by company directors Darius James and Amy Doughty, it pitches Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers into a violent version of the Welsh valleys.

It’s a wise move for this young, 12-strong company to sidestep period pageantry in favour of pared-back immediacy, especially as any balletic interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy inevitably draws comparison with Kenneth MacMillan’s teeming, sumptuously designed version for the Royal Ballet.

Simple but effective use is made of the intimate, in-the-round New Vic – bedecked only with a bed and a platform that serves both as Juliet’s balcony and the tomb. The nimble ensemble go full-throttle in the fight scenes, despite the confines of the space, to deliver a sense of disorder that’s both casual and contagious.

Danila Marzilli as Juliet in Ballet Cymru’s Romeo a Juliet
Vigour and vulnerability ... Danila Marzilli as Juliet in Ballet Cymru’s Romeo a Juliet. Photograph: Sian Trenberth Photography

Trussed up in an oddly unthreatening combination of leather-daddy accessories and grey cycling shorts, Robbie Moorcroft’s Tybalt is more lumbering thug than lithe Prince of Cats, while Miguel Fernandes’s fleet-footed Mercutio proves a puckish foil, punctuating the fray with larky split leaps and bottom waggles.

Hampered by some laborious lifts and unecstatic partnering, the love duets never soar to the lyrical heights of Prokofiev’s score, but Andrea Maria Battaggia’s Romeo nevertheless provides graceful lines and a suitably pensive demeanour.

It’s Danila Marzilli who steals the show as Juliet, imbuing the role with nuanced shades of vigour and vulnerability. With companion Cerys, she starts out as a teenager who catches at currents of sensual excitement with cursive inflections of the wrist. Steeling herself to take the Friar’s potion, she combines shuddering revulsion with an ineluctable pull of despair. It’s a knockout performance.

On tour until 6 July.


Contributor

Anna Winter

The GuardianTramp

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