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Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet on tour and at Sadler's Wells, 2019


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After a midday screening in London of MB Swan Lake, not a cinematic masterpiece but enjoyable nonetheless for the memories it brought back of sizzling live performances at the start of 2019, we hopped on a train to Northampton full of excitement and itching to see MB’s new production Romeo & Juliet....

....I won’t spoil the surprises by telling you the story. Whilst it was worth the excursion out of our fair capital, I think it fair to say that at this point the production seemed rough-hewn and perhaps under-rehearsed. It currently lacks subtlety or finesse and chemistry.  Definitely a work in progress for me. 

There are some fine individual performances and/or moments. Others need work and a few acting lessons would perhaps inject some sense, meaning and emotions to the characters that, for me at least, have been sketched but not yet coloured in. There are the usual MB archetype characters (authority figures “Boo!” and rebels “Yay!”) and MB choreography (at times confused rather than complicated and nothing notably original) brought forward from previous MB productions together with appeals to cuteness at times.

The pared down orchestra and its arrangements of the Prokofiev score is outstanding.

Audience reception was enthusiastically supportive yet somehow muted. Whilst there was plenty to enjoy I think we all wanted it to be better than it was.

Being a huge fan of MB’s work hopefully by the time it opens in London and we watch it again it will be... 

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Thank you for your report prs59 and welcome to the forum ( if you have previously reported then I missed it , sorry) 

I share maryrosesatonapin (....so Mary rose!) hope that by August at SW it will be settled in and far more polished. I’m so looking forward to seeing the production after the long run of traditional R&J’s at the ROH . Hoping for a report from Jan after the Lowry shows ... 

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On 29/05/2019 at 14:44, prs59 said:

I think it fair to say that at this point the production seemed rough-hewn and perhaps under-rehearsed. It currently lacks subtlety or finesse and chemistry.  Definitely a work in progress for me. 

 

We were meant to see this production at the Bradford Alhambra on Saturday 25th May. We arrived for the matinee only to find out the entire show had been cancelled due to cast illness, with no understudy being capable of standing in. 

One of our party had made a 2 hour train journey especially for the show. 

The queue for refunds took an hour and a half. 

We were informed the evening performance would go ahead as an understudy was on the way from London ..... but no spare seats. 

Very disappointed. 

 

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1 hour ago, Yorkshire Pud said:

We were meant to see this production at the Bradford Alhambra on Saturday 25th May. We arrived for the matinee only to find out the entire show had been cancelled due to cast illness, with no understudy being capable of standing in. 

One of our party had made a 2 hour train journey especially for the show. 

The queue for refunds took an hour and a half. 

We were informed the evening performance would go ahead as an understudy was on the way from London ..... but no spare seats. 

Very disappointed. 

 

 

I'm so sorry, Yorkshire Pud! That's awful and must have been so disappointing.

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Well it certainly looks like it’s a valid interpretation of Shakespeare’s play just as West Side Story before it & countless re-setting of time & place in stage play versions. This trailer has made me keen to go see this - even as a devotee to Classical Ballet & the original score....

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On 05/06/2019 at 23:57, Sim said:

Thanks FionaE.  Somehow I don’t think this is for me!

Nor me. Is it set in a secure mental unit?

I wish Bourne would leave off with his depressing, tired  "contemporary re-imaginings of/ modern day twist on"  classic works, and try to find inspiration elsewhere. 

Incidentally my local cinema has Matthew Bourne cast as Romeo for tomorrow night's Live Cinema screening of R&J from the ROH. Now that should be interesting !

 

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3 hours ago, Richard LH said:

Nor me. Is it set in a secure mental unit?

I wish Bourne would leave off with his depressing, tired  "contemporary re-imaginings of/ modern day twist on"  classic works, and try to find inspiration elsewhere. 

Incidentally my local cinema has Matthew Bourne cast as Romeo for tomorrow night's Live Cinema screening of R&J from the ROH. Now that should be interesting !

 

Each to their own Richard LH. I've enjoyed almost all of Matthew Bourne's productions and judging by the success of most of them I can only assume many thousands of others have enjoyed them too. I accept they do not appeal to everyone but there has been a lot of variety and I do not agree that they are depressing or tired, in my opinion.

Best wishes from a Bourne fan :)

 

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I saw the performance at The Lowry tonight with Cordelia Braithwaite as Juliet and Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo.

 

Of course this is a Matthew Bourne production so I do not expect a ballet or even a conventional setting and this production is no different.

 

It seems to be set in a mental health or correctional institution (perhaps a mix of both) as some of the staff are dressed as nurses and others as prison guards.  The set reminded me of the one used in Northern Ballet's Victoria except that it is white rather than black - so we have a curved wall with 3 doors and a balcony at the top.  There are places to clamber up and down and some staircases too.  One side of the space is marked boys and the other girls.

 

There is a live orchestra and the score is the Prokofiev but not as we are used to hearing it!  The order of some of the sections has been changed and some of it seems deliberately off-kilter.  It really worked for the production and the small orchestra sounded excellent from where we were sitting.

 

So we are introduced to the boys and the girls (all dressed in white) undertaking regimented training.  A guard (Tybalt) appears and chooses one of the girls, who is terrified.  Juliet stands up to him and ends up being the one dragged off.

 

An upper class couple appear with their teenage son (Romeo).  He is left by them at the institution by his parents.

 

Some socialisation is allowed between the inmates and Romeo and Juliet meet.  There is a terrific duet for them using the balcony scene music. The first act continues with what we would know as Act 2.  The vicious guard comes back and causes unrest amongst the inmates.  He drags off one of the young men and, during the course of the altercation, the young man is shot.  The inmates take their revenge on the guard and Romeo is left holding the murder weapon.

 

Act 2 (more conventionally Act 3) starts before it starts!  The dancers start staggering on to the stage, obviously in drug-induced sedation.  Juliet is in a state of shock.  We see Romeo being taken out of the institution by his parents but he wants to stay so they write out a very large cheque so that he can stay.  Juliet and Romeo are in separate rooms and Juliet is desperate - Friar (Mother) Lawrence takes her to Romeo's room and they are reunited.  Juliet starts hallucinating about what has gone before and accidentally kills Romeo before she kills herself.  The end.

 

So the dance is energetic and repetitive in parts.  There is a fair amount of regimented walking around.  The duets between Romeo and Juliet are raw and intense.  

 

At the interval my friend and I weren't 100% sure but by the end we were totally sold on this production!  Act 2 is worth the entrance money on its own.  It is tragic and powerful and intensely moving on many levels.  We have seen so much in recent years about abuse in institutions of various types and this is a really topical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

 

Cordelia and Paris were wonderful together.  I was also very impressed with Dan Wright's powerful performance as Tybalt.  I'm afraid I couldn't work out who was Mercutio and Benvolio within the cast but the whole ensemble cast was terrific.  Six young people are chosen to perform with the professional cast at each venue.  I honestly couldn't tell who they were they melded in so well with the rest of the cast.

 

Don't go expecting ballet but do go expecting a compelling and relevant re-telling of Romeo and Juliet in Matthew Bourne's inimitable style.

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  • 1 month later...

I went to the opening night on Wednesday 7th August , with a great view of the stage from the Stalls side gallery . There was a lot of drama and tension, some good ensemble work with the young cast, and some wonderful lyrical duets for Romeo and Juliet danced by Paris Fitzpatrick and Cordelia Braithwaite. A very different interpretation from the historic tale as you would expect from Sir Matthew Bourne. There is an orchestra who were very good. Overall I really enjoyed the show and am looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow. 

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  • Jan McNulty changed the title to Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet on tour and at Sadler's Wells, 2019

I was there on Friday (managed to get last minute tikt) - yes it was surprising when the stage manager (I guess) announced that there had been an injury and that a replacement was dashing to Sadlers -- he explained that there was a part where 2 men were undressing another man, and that it should have been 3 men , he also said that it was press night and hoped everyone would be OK while there was a short break.   The atmosphere was really good and some people took the opportunity to have a quick trip to the bar etc.  

 

It was so interesting to see R&J set so differently although I did miss the family vs family - it was more the institutionalised vs the institution - opitimised by a major baddie character.  Great to leave the theatre to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga - witty I thought.

 

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One of the dancers broke his ankle unfortunately 

I can only applaud the dancer who went on in his place at really short notice what a true professional! I believe he was even being coached in the wings before going on eeeek! 

Theres a newspaper article out already about this which somebody posted to my Facebook page this morning wondering whether the injured dancer could be in the next ward up on T10!! It goes into quite a lot of detail about it all but don't know how to get it here.

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I was there yesterday and  I must say I did not like the show AT ALL.

 

Main problem is for me the lack of chemistry between the two leading dancers.

 

This Romeo is too young and too feminine for this Juliet.

 

Impossible to believe in their love.

 

They had absolutely no connection anyway.

 

On top of that I found the choreography very basic and some of the dancers looked like students (I know some of them are but it's not something I notice when I go to see the second company of Hofesh Shechter).

 

Some of them were very weak technically and very OTT in their interpretation.

 

 

Audience loved it....

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3 hours ago, MAX said:

I was there yesterday and  I must say I did not like the show AT ALL.

 

Main problem is for me the lack of chemistry between the two leading dancers.

 

This Romeo is too young and too feminine for this Juliet.

 

Impossible to believe in their love.

 

They had absolutely no connection anyway.

 

On top of that I found the choreography very basic and some of the dancers looked like students (I know some of them are but it's not something I notice when I go to see the second company of Hofesh Shechter).

 

Some of them were very weak technically and very OTT in their interpretation.

 

 

Audience loved it....


Like his other works, MB is always marmite. I don’t think R&J is as accessible as SL perhaps because it’s new and fresh and maybe even incomplete. Nor, despite what the papers say, did the audience leap to its feet at any of the 3 performances including opening night I’ve now seen. Rather they stood gradually perhaps applauding the dancers passion rather than the piece itself.

 That said, I think it’s best to judge MBR&J on its own merits in terms of the story being told (I was at the Q&A on Thursday after the show) rather than comparing it to other more traditional R&J productions. Think how radical Baz Luhrmann’s film version was on its release.

For me it’s dance not ballet but I don’t think it claims to be ballet.

I get the comment about lack of visible sexual chemistry between R&J. However when you view the characters as dysfunctional damaged personalities somewhere on the spectrum, then traditional notions of romance and how it is demonstrated go out the window.

e.g. My godson has Aspergers and just because he shows no emotion on the outside doesn’t mean he’s not loved up intensely on the inside 🙃

For me Tybalt was the weak link, more akin to one of the Village People than a psychopathic sexual predator 

Chacun à son goût 

🙃

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 13/08/2019 at 23:29, Sim said:

It seems to have had universal praise from the critics, but as I am not a Bourne fan I didn't buy a tick et.  Instead, I am enjoying reading everyone's comments!

I did get a ticket despite my lack of appreciation of Bourne and can't say that was one of my better decisions. I thought the choreography was somewhat simplicistic even by Bourne standards, but what made me flee at the intermission was were the mangled sounds coming from the pit. I don't know what they did to the score, or why they chose to amplify the live music to a weird distorted cacophony,  but I never thought you could make me hate the R&J score.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I have just come back from seeing Romeo and Juliet at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.  It was amazing, good sounds from the pit, and total commitment from the dancers interpreting what I consider to be one of Matthew Bourne's finest works to date.  My companions all thought the same.  A standing ovation at the end from a sold out house - well deserved.

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