Northern Ballet: Romeo and Juliet

There’s something inherently romantic about the French. Last night’s performance at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre of Romeo and Juliet by Northern Ballet lacked none of the romance of Shakespeare’s most romantic play. This is hardly surprising, when the choreography, set design, costume and lighting design are all the product of French minds.

Nicola Gervasi and Mlindi Kulashe © Emma Kauldhar, from Danceeurope.net (click to go to website)
Nicola Gervasi and Mlindi Kulashe © Emma Kauldhar, from Danceeurope.net (click the image to go to their website)

Jean-Christophe Maillot‘s choreography was brilliantly executed by the dancers of Northern Ballet, wearing the costumes of Jérôme Kaplan within the brilliant visual context of Ernest Pignon-Ernest‘s set and Dominique Drillot‘s lighting. Although visually simple, the changing scenes and emotional rollercoaster ride of this tragic narrative, were by no means simplistic. In the week that had the Internet wondering what colour a dress was, this creative team showed the true power of movement, surface and light.

The company of dancers were no less impressive in their execution of the ballet. Isaac Lee-Baker provides a kind of visual narrative throughout the work in the role of Friar Laurence. All of the tragedy of the piece seemed to pass through his body as he connected the parts together. Dreda Blow’s Juliet evolved from innocent naïveté through rage and betrayal at the death of her cousin to her final release from tragedy. Tobias Batley’s Romeo was as dashing and handsome as Romeo can be.

Prokofiev’s score for this piece is to me the de facto musical canvas upon which to paint this ballet picture. A tightly correlated interpretation of the music was provided by Northern Ballet Sinfonia under John Pryce-Jones.

The jewel in this particular crown of Northern Ballet’s repertoire last night had to be the stunning portrayal by Mlindi Kulashe of the arrogant and cocky Tybalt. The dancer had the character so perfectly encapsulated, so visceral, that his rages and flourishes were as in-your-face as a late night subway encounter with a Harlem gangster.  The crowd loved it, especially Mlindi.