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Terpsichore

Scottish Ballet Romeo and Juliet

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Is anyone else going to see Scottish Ballet's Romeo and Juliet at Sadler's Wells tomorrow evening.  If so, would he or she like to join me in the interval for a libation?

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Thank you, but I don't feel the need to go and see it again :(

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I'm afraid not, as I saw it tonight. I'm still mulling it over. It's very hard to get the MacMillan version out of one's mind. I wasn't hugely taken with it, although it got better as it went on. I caught myself thinking that I'd like to see Sleeping Beauty again for its varied and interesting choreography, which, for me, this production lacked. On the plus side there were strong performances from Sophie Martin (lovely), Victor Zarallo and Christopher Harrison as Juliet, Mercutio and Tybalt respectively. The score is incredible; you could close your eyes and still know what was going on, if you knew the play.

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Not exactly ringing endorsements from Alison and Aileen.   I will give you my thoughts after tonight.

 

I have seen the Royal Ballet's version several times.  I am old enough to remember Lynn Seymour as Juliet. I also saw Ballet Cymru's production in Kendal last year which I liked very much. I am looking forward to seeing the Mariinsky's later in the year when Xander Parish will dance Romeo.   So lots of comparators.

 

I must say that I have a very soft spot for Scottish Ballet. I was introduced to them by the Professor of Fine Arts of my old university who eventually became the chair of their company. He had got to know them in Bristol where he taught before coming to St Andrews and the company followed him to Scotland immediately after he took the chair at St Andrews. I don't know whether there was a causal connection or just coincidence but it was a fortuitous development because it happened just at the time I was developing a passion for ballet.  It was the first company where I actually got to know some of the dancers and I even met Peter Darrell.  Though I was also a Young Friend of Covent Garden and virtually lived in the House during vacations the Royal Ballet was much more remote.   

 

So I am really looking forward to tonight.   I am glad to say I am already in London so I won't arrive at the theatre tired and hungry after a long drive as happened with The Winter's Tale.   I hope tonight's audience will be kind to its Borealian guests.

Edited by terpsichore

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A couple more things about last night. Having read Graham Watts' (favourable) review I clearly missed a lot of the detail on the backdrop and this and the photograph at the top of the review make me wonder whether the production would look much better from lower down (I was in the second circle). Secondly, I couldn't understand the point of the time changes. Thirdly, there seemed to be some actual older people on stage. They slipped onto the back of the stage in the 'balcony pdd'. Fourthly, Tamara Rojo was there. I thought that she looked rather tired and hope that she will have a good long rest after Coppelia, but I don't suppose that that is likely to happen

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I agree with Aileen regarding Macmillan's version....I love it. And Terpsichore, how lucky you are to have seen Lynn Seymour dance Juliet. There is footage of her and David Wall on youtube and it takes my breath away. I hope that you enjoy the performance tonight. x

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Aileen, if watching it from the "wrong" place contributed to my inability to engage with the piece, I'd be pleased to hear it.

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Alison, as I'm not seeing it again I can't compare the experiences of seeing the ballet from different positions in the theatre. I'm just going from what Graham Watts said in his review. I wasn't particularly far back in the second circle but it felt a long way away from the stage. The auditorium at Sadler's Wells is larger than you think.

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One more thing that I should say, in fairness to this production, is that I often enjoy a new production or new ballet less the first time that I see it that on subsequent viewings because I am not so overwhelmed by trying to take in so much new information and can observe more of the fine detail.

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Thank you Ellie. I did enjoy this production. It is very different from the Royal Ballet's bit I liked it just as much. I will write a proper review when I get access to a computer.

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I saw this production in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I thought the time changes were to show that the family feud had been going on for generations.

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I saw the Saturday matinee of Scottish Ballet's R&J and really enjoyed it. I'm a huge lover of the MacMillan version (I spent a small fortune going to 3 of the most recent RB run!), but I'm always intrigued to see different ballet interpretations. For me, Pastor's version worked really well and I found myself emotionally engaged all the way through with the story, choreography and dancing. Although condensing the story into 1 hour 40 minutes of stage time left less time for the relationship between Romeo and Juliet to develop, Remi Andreoni and Bethany-Kingsley-Garner got across the youthful emotion as the pair and the final death scenes were powerfully performed and very moving.

 

I loved the stripped back sets and having the Capulets in black costumes (including black-shirted fascists). I liked the setting of the whole thing in 20th century Italy, and using the time changes and video backdrop to highlight the endless family feud and ongoing violence. The lovers are taken away separately after death - no happy reconciliation or remorse by the feuding families in this version. I also liked the central, dancing roles for Lord and Lady Capulet, yesterday danced convincingly by Lewis Landini and Claire Robertson. In fact, Pastor has Lord Capulet as an absolute monster, which is utterly chilling all the way through, and gave this version of the story a lot of its impact for me. It is still unfortunately all too relevant today to have a mobster, head of the gang, warlord-type figure inciting violence.

 

The stand out performance for me yesterday was Daniel Davidson as Mercutio and his relentless taunting of Tybalt to the point where you couldn't blame Tybalt for rising to it. Mind you, the fight was (excellently choreographed) hand-to-hand combat only and unlikely to have been fatal, until Lord Capulet chillingly slipped Tybalt a knife.......

 

So, I found the whole production exciting, punchy, fresh, relevant to modern times. And what a great dancers Scottish Ballet has - the whole company seemed really gelled together and all giving a fine performance as 'a whole'. I hadn't had the opportunity to see them perform before so I'm so pleased I went down to Sadlers (thanks for the recommendation a few months back on the forum Janet!). The matinee yesterday was very warmly received by the audience, which was well-deserved. I would definitely see Pastor's version again and more of his work - for me, it was extremely thought-provoking and moving. 

Edited by nottsballetlover
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Where were you sitting, nottsballetlover? I didn't notice Lord Capulet slip Tybalt the knife. You make an interesting observation about his role in this particular production.

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What a lovely company and congratulations to Christopher Hampson ,I saw Thursday nightI thought the company danced so well  Juliet Mercutio Tybalt and the Capulet couple were so good but I felt no connection to Romeo ,a fine dancer but I wanted more passion.Come back soon Scottish Ballet and bring us some Peter Darrel"s lovely ballets 

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Ever since it was in Bristol  Scottish Ballet has been exciting and innovative. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I have always admired it.  It was works such as Mods and Rockers '63 and Houseparty that first attracted my attention. It continued to innovate and take risks after the company's move to Glasgow with a a steady stream of new works by Peter Darrell, Ashley Page and now Christopher Hampson all of which are reflected in the company's repertoireKrzysztof Pastor's Romeo and Juliet continues that tradition of adventure and innovation.
 
The story of Romeo and Juliet is well known and has been the translated into ballet by several choreographers. The version with whicg British audiences are most familiar is probably Kenneth Macmillan's for the Royal Ballet.  Ballet Cymru also has a great version for the small auditoriums that it visits. Next month we shall see English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in the Round and then the Mariinsky's with Xander Parish dancing Romeo.  
 
Shakespeare's play and the other versions of the ballet focuses on the young lovers who are kept apart by family antipathy and rivalry. Pastor's version focuses on the enmity not just in mediaeval Verona but in Italy throughout the ages.   It achieves that effect by setting different scenes of the ballet in different periods of modern Italian history: 
  • between the wars when Fascists struggled with Communists; 
  • the immediate post war period when Italy was transformed into a consumer society; and 
  • the recent past when the post-war consumer boom ended precipitously.
There are people in the position of Romeo and Juliet in every age and I read the references to Romeo and Juliet in the ballet as the representatives  of such persons in each of those periods.

In every other respect the ballet followed the play. There were strong performances by Christopher Harrison as Romeo, Claire Robertson as Juliet, Daniel Davidson as Mercutio,Owen Thorne as Tybault and Rimbaud Patron as Friar Lawrence. Principal conductor Richard Honner stuck to the Prokofiev score though perhaps with a few tweaks. For instance the percussion seemed to continue a little longer than in other versions after Romeo had killed Tybault.  As in Macmillan's version the centre piece of Pastor's ballet were the pas de deux that traced the lovers' relationship: the initial meeting, the balcony scene, in the bedroom and finally the tomb. I noticed how a lift that seemed like an assisted grand jeté expressed diffidence and even struggle in the first pas de deux and joy in the second.

Among the aspects of the ballet that I most liked were Tatyana van Walsum's designs which can be studied on the Romeo and Juliet page of her website. For each of the three periods she set the scene with flickering newsreel clips and the protagonists' uniforms.

This ballet is not everybody's cup of tea. The initial reactions on BalletcoForum were not exactly encouraging but I have known Scottish Ballet for many years and I was not going to be deterred. I am glad I persevered. After watching Romeo and Juliet at the Wells on Saturday I signed up as a Friend though I have been such for many years.
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Where were you sitting, nottsballetlover? I didn't notice Lord Capulet slip Tybalt the knife. You make an interesting observation about his role in this particular production.

 

Aileen - I was centre front row stalls so rather good view!!  ^_^

 

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the second circle may not have been the best place to view this from: certainly it made the back projections very confusing rather than enlightening - and I barely realised that there was any difference between the first-act and second-act costumes, despite knowing that there was supposed to be a change in timeline between the two!

 

I do still think that there's a problem with just about any production of R&J where it's Mercutio who gets all the best moves, though ..

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I'm becoming more and more convinced that the second circle may not have been the best place to view this from: certainly it made the back projections very confusing rather than enlightening - and I barely realised that there was any difference between the first-act and second-act costumes, despite knowing that there was supposed to be a change in timeline between the two!

 

I do still think that there's a problem with just about any production of R&J where it's Mercutio who gets all the best moves, though ..

 

I don't think it matters about the background projections. They simply helped to set the scene in that they gave a sense of period and like a lot of things in that ballet they were understated.   I think that the ballet could have been followed without them wherever one sat in the auditorium.

 

I know that every appreciation is subjective but with the greatest respect I really don't think Mercutio had all the best moves. For me the best moves were the pas de deux particularly the balcony scene and its contrast with the initial meeting. I thought that was just lovely.

 

One man's meat is another man's poison and I can understand why Pastor's ballet may not be everybody's cup of tea but it was certainly mine. I also love the Macmillan version which I have seen several times. On one of those occasions Seymour danced the title role and on another occasion Fonteyn.  I think there is room for two versions - indeed more than two because I also admire the Welsh one.

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I had no difficulty following the 'plot'; that was not the issue. From my position, the backgrounds were confusing rather than illuminating. I generally like stripped back sets rather than fussy, cluttered ones, but you do need to be able to see them. I also think that the drama and the choreography might have been more involving when looked at straight on rather than from above. I liked some of the choreography, particularly the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio which was very convincing, but overall there was not enough choreographic interest for me and some of it seemed to have come from West Side Story or a school play (eg corps sitting on boxes with their backs to the audience). Mercutio, Tybalt and Lord Capulet were all strongly drawn (and acted) and were very believable.

 

Terpsicore, I saw Ballet Cymru's R&J at Lilian Baylis last year. If you want to see another version Royal Swedish Ballet is bringing its R&J to the Wells in the autumn; I believe that it's by Mats Ek and I expect that it will be pretty novel.

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I had no difficulty following the 'plot'; that was not the issue. From my position, the backgrounds were confusing rather than illuminating. I generally like stripped back sets rather than fussy, cluttered ones, but you do need to be able to see them. I also think that the drama and the choreography might have been more involving when looked at straight on rather than from above. I liked some of the choreography, particularly the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio which was very convincing, but overall there was not enough choreographic interest for me and some of it seemed to have come from West Side Story or a school play (eg corps sitting on boxes with their backs to the audience). Mercutio, Tybalt and Lord Capulet were all strongly drawn (and acted) and were very believable.

 

Terpsicore, I saw Ballet Cymru's R&J at Lilian Baylis last year. If you want to see another version Royal Swedish Ballet is bringing its R&J to the Wells in the autumn; I believe that it's by Mats Ek and I expect that it will be pretty novel.

 

Thanks for the tip. I'm a bit of a connoisseur of Romeo and Juliet and will look out for the Swedes. I am certainly looking forward to the Mariinsky's, especially as a Yorkshireman is dancing the title role.

 

I agree with you about the allusion to West Side Story but for me that was one of the positives.

 

I also relished the fight scenes.

 

I came out of the theatre happy thinking that it had been worth the long trek to London and on the rare occasions when that does not happen I get teragrumpy.

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From my position, the backgrounds were confusing rather than illuminating. I generally like stripped back sets rather than fussy, cluttered ones, but you do need to be able to see them. I also think that the drama and the choreography might have been more involving when looked at straight on rather than from above. I liked some of the choreography, particularly the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio which was very convincing, but overall there was not enough choreographic interest for me

 

Those feelings are pretty similar to my own, I think.

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I read another (favorable) review today headed by a photograph which was taken from a position fairly close by and at the same level as the stage. I must say that the backdrops looked much more impressive and the image of the dancers in front of the backdrops was so much more compelling from that position. I do wonder whether the ballet would have much more impact from lower down. On another thread someone commented about feeling very remote from the action when watching Sweet Violets from the amphitheatre at the ROH. and my recollection of this ballet, also seen from the amphitheatre, was that half the stage was bathed in darkness in some of the scenes. It makes me wonder how much one's appreciation and enjoyment of a ballet is affected by one's position in the theatre. 

Edited by aileen

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A lot, clearly.  I was just having a look at the previous Sweet Violets thread and see that I was actually up in the amphi the first time I saw it, and struggled in precisely the same way.

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I was left cold at end but did make its points. As Terpsichore says Peter Darell was modern and wanted to still get a big audience. His works still stand the test of time I think. Especially his R & J. I read he loved theater..

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Not on this run but Under Ashley Page a couple of years ago. To be honest I need a couple of performances to get my head round any ballet. Having said that I can enjoy just pure ballet in the classical style.

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