Scottish Ballet premiered Krzystof Pastor’s production in 2008 and have since successfully toured it on a couple of occasions, this time not just across the usual Scottish cities but also to Sadlers Wells in London. It is a very different interpretation to the more classical versions we may have seen before. There are no mediaeval palazzos and piazzas or elaborate sets and costumes and there is no traditional balcony from which the lovers plight their troth. The set is minimalistic and the balcony is a small mirrored elevator. The setting is 20th century Italy with a backdrop of footage of some of the most violent and bloody conflict to beset the country in that century. Here the Capulets are Black Shirts and their movements and demeanour reflect the overbearing and intimidating Fascisti. The Montagues are portrayed on the other hand as free Italians, more humorous and “simpatico” and dressed in light colours with lighter, more free movements.
The contrast between the two families is stark and highlights the tensions and conflict between the two warring sides. There are a few liberties taken with the original story to fit with this more modern scenario but the essence of the story very much remains the same – the tragic love story of two star-cross’d lovers played out across the great divide of manmade conflict.
The title roles are played to perfection by Eric Cavallari and Sophie Martin. They convey beautifully both the exuberance and excitement of youthful first love and the passion and pathos of the tragic finale. Other standout performances were Victor Zarallo as Mercutio, Owen Thorne as Capulet and Eve Mutso, his wife. All the dancers were excellent and really threw themselves into their roles, literally and metaphorically. The stark set left them plenty of room for ensemble set pieces and high leaps.
I’m pleased to say this production has swept away memories of a previous Scottish Ballet production of Romeo and Juliet many years ago at the Kings Theatre where the small stage was so cramped that the dancers kept knocking bits of the set over. No such mishaps now.
The music is the famous Prokofiev score with the well-known theme from the Apprentice marking the ball scene where Romeo and Juliet first meet. The score is gloriously interpreted by conductor Richard Honner and the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. All in all, a very different but rewarding interpretation of which I am sure the Bard himself would have approved.
It is a measure of how much our national ballet company’s reputation has grown that they are now also spreading their wings internationally having just returned from Hong Kong and with a forthcoming visit to Russia with Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling. How fortunate we are to have such a company here in Scotland, they deserve and warrant all our support.