Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, 31 Jan 2015

I've seen three performances by Ballet West: The Nutcracker in 2013, Swan Lake last March and now Romeo and Juliet. The other two were good but this is the best by far. This is a very ambitious production with a big cast including some very young children. It would have been a credit to a full time performing company. As most of the dancers are students Ballet West's achievement is all the more remarkable.

Several factors made this production special.  Excellent choreography by Daniel Job: dramatic and with plenty of detail that is often missed by other productions. Great sets by Ryan Davies and Sara-Maria Barton. A well trained and coordinated corps where even the children performed like pros. Sparkling dancing not only from the principals Jonathan and Sara-Maria Barton but also from the soloists Owen Morris as Tybalt, Andremaria Battaglia as Paris, Miranda Hamill as the nurse, Isaac Bowry as Lord Capulet, Kathrine Blyth as his wife, Andrew Cook as Prince Escalus and Karen Terry as Friar Lawrence.

This is a ballet that demands not only great virtuosity from the principals with no less than 4 major pas de deux (the ball, the balcony, the bedroom and the crypt) but also great drama. Juliet grows up literally overnight. A playful adolescent teasing her nurse in the first Act. A woman who knows her mind and is capable of taking enormous risks in defiance of her father in the next. Romeo - passionate in love but also in fury. Drama also from the soloists. Katherine Blyth's grief at her son's death. Her anger on seeing his killer. Her performance gripped the audience - or at any rate it gripped me. Bowry who I had previously seen as Drosselmeyer and Rothbart showed he can act as well as dance. So too could Cook whom I had also admired very much last year.

Because the cast is large and the sets were elaborate the show needed a big stage. The Macrobert is not a small auditorium but it did not do justice to the show. This production has already toured China where it was no doubt danced in bigger auditoria. Probably the best place to see this show is the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow where the tour concludes on Valentine's day. This will be a memorable performance and if you live in Glasgow or anywhere near it you really should try to be there.

In the programme the company's founder and artistic Gillian Barton wrote how it started from humble beginnings in 1991 and how it has achieved great things with tours of China, finalists and medallists in important competitions and graduates in several major companies. Tonight I met Gillian Barton for the first time. Others including one of the members of my class at Northern Ballet had spoken very highly of that lady and I can quite see why.

Further Reading

4 Fev 2015 Kenneth Speirs Brother and sister look ahead to Romeo and Juliet performance in Paisley Daily Record
2 Feb 2015 Kelly Apter Ballet review: Romeo and Juliet, Stirling The Scotsman

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