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Northern Ballet Romeo & Juliet - Autumn Tour 2016

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Just saw this in Canterbury and was very pleased. Sadly not sold out but some very good dancing and a lovely little orchestra. I think the Macmillan choreography is a masterpiece, but this was interesting and quite exciting. Short. The friar has a hugely extended role and it all happens on a smallish stage which I guess is also the case in Leeds. Anyone else seen it? I'd be curious to hear views.

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I saw and enjoyed it last year and am seeing it again in Bradford in a couple of weeks.

 

Thanks for your report.  Were you at the matinee or the evening performance?  It was a new cast at the matinee.

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Just back from my first viewing of this production - Woking.  Loved it! Splendid dancing by the whole company! ***** Five stars!

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This is the first break I have had since thoroughly enjoying Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in Woking last Friday, and I'm determined to put down a few thoughts before any more time elapses!

 

It was the second time I had seen this production – managing to get to one of the early days in Leeds last year. I loved it then, and I loved it even more last week!

 

I last saw NB in Richmond back in May when the performance was Cathy Marston's wonderful, feminist interpretation of Jane Eyre, and I remember thinking then how the whole NB crew – dancers and musicians - seemed on tip-top form.

 

Well, whatever they're putting in the water in Leeds these days, it's definitely continuing to do its work, as the same spirit was fully in evidence in Woking last week. I sat in the front row, and the energy and precision with which all the dancers moved around the stage was striking from the very start. Martha Leebolt was at her absolute best in delivering the transition of Juliet from playful ingenue to tragic heroine via a fully believable coup de foudre passion. Seeing Martha dancing with NB as so often in the past now seems like a stolen pleasure as we await her departure. I so hope she (and indeed Tobias Batley) will continue their relationship with the Company in some form, whatever else they may decide to do.

 

I know some have been wondering about succession at NB, but from the performances I saw last Friday there is little to be concerned about. Antoinette Brooks-Daw got fully into character once more to create the nurse – I well remember how she stole the show with her slapstick Helena in MSND a couple of years ago – but she was also a stand-out as a deeply expressive young Jane in Jane Eyre. Javier Torres is such a familiar presence in NB productions now, I wonder if there is any role he couldn't dance. His natural strength (as here as Tybalt) is as the strong man of course, but he was also brilliant as Rochester in Jane Eyre, where he progressed (or is that regressed?) from arrogant master, through sensitive lover to broken, dependent shell.

 

There are three others to mention from a wonderful cast. Lucia Solari impressed me from the moment she joined NB three years ago. I am not sure how often she has had the opportunity to dance leading roles with the Company, but in the performances I have seen, she has always filled second level parts - as here. As Lady Capulet (and according to this version in a relationship with Tybalt) she totally commanded the stage whenever she appeared. She is a really beautiful and expressive dancer and I very much hope I will have the chance to see her in some leading roles with NB before too long. From the Coryphee, Matthew Koon was a perfect Mercutio: he delivered the cheeky defiant gestures and postures of the role very naturally and with precision, and I am sure we will see much more of him in the future.

 

Finally, Mlindi Kulashe as Friar Lawrence was an inspired casting. He conveyed the agony of fore-knowing the inevitability of the tragedy with spectacular drama, and I am looking forward to seeing him grow as a dancer in the years ahead.

 

The creation of the role of Friar Lawrence is fascinating in itself, initially conceived perhaps as one of those many ballet inventions required to 'assist' the narrative to transition from spoken drama/written word into dance. However whatever its origin, it has become in this interpretation a very important figure indeed, and in my view gives this ballet a real distinctiveness. The Friar is frequently presented in a kind of anguish, and on more than one occasion in a representation of crucifixion. I loved the way his style of movement contrasted with that of every other character in the performance, and his 'master of ceremonies' ability to freeze the action. He is able to see into the future (the puppet show) but unable to prevent the coming tragedy (failing to stop the scenery moving inexorably into the next scene). He is a fresh character in a long line of artist/commentator figures, and for me is a welcome addition!

 

Finally, the design of this production is a deliberate contrast to our expectations, and I welcomed that too. The familiar deeply coloured medieval costumes are exchanged for layers of texture in cream and shots of pastels. These do stand out against pieces of plain abstract scenery which slide against each other and with a minimum of props. I do enjoy the grandeur of the classic Nureyev or MacMillan productions (especially in the Ballroom scheme!) but this Jean-Christophe Maillot version will be my favourite for now – I hope we get the chance to see it again before too long.

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We saw Martha and Giuliano's cast last night in Bradford and it was a terrific performance all round. Antoinette Brooks-Daw was just glorious as the young nurse almost revelling in Juliet's illicit romance. Mlindi Kulashe again proved what a great actor he is becoming with his angst ridden portrayal of the Friar. Matthew Koon was like quicksilver as Mercutio. And as for Javier Torres and Lucia Solari as Tybalt and Lady C ... just wow!

 

Martha gave such a believable portrait of Juliet growing from young girl to woman in love and then tragedy. Giuliano inhabited the role of Romeo; they were fabulous together.

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After Tuesday I saw five more performances - well I am greedy!!!

 

Martha and Giuliano's cast danced two of those five and wonderful they were too.

 

On Wednesday evening I saw the cast led by Dreda Blow and Toby Batley and yet again I was swept away by them.  They portrayed the eponymous characters will passionate abandon.  It was lovely to see their progression from young teenagers out to enjoy themselves to a young couple passionately in love and rushing headlong to tragedy.  Mlindi Kulashe was a fantastic Tybalt to Hannah Bateman's Lady C - I thought the stage was going to spontaneously combust!  Their dark romance contrasted beautifully with the young lovers.

 

During this week i was also fortunate to see the two new casts that were introduced this season and I was so glad that I had the opportunity to see them.  Abigail Prudames and Sean Bates were just sublime.  Both are incredibly elegant dancers and were very passionate together.  Miki Akuta and Matthew Koon look so very, very young.  They danced with delicacy but also the ebullience of youth.  All four of these dancers are definitely ones to watch.  

 

On Saturday evening it was Martha's final performance with the company before the start of her leave of absence (it had been Toby's on Friday evening).  It was an intensely emotional performance and I am not ashamed to admit that I was in floods by the end of the evening.  Yes, of course we leapt to our feet at the end to applaud this very wonderful dancer.

 

I hope it is not too long before we see Martha and Toby on a British stage again.  A group of Friends of NB had watched class on Saturday morning and at the end Martha and Toby came down to say goodbye to us.  They have always been very good ambassadors for Northern Ballet and have been very supportive of the Friends.  I would just like to wish them both well for this next stage of their careers.

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Does anyone know what Martha and Toby are doing next? I had been expecting an announcement that they would be joining the cast of An American in Paris but when the London casting was announced recently their names were not included.

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