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Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet gives Shakespeare’s timeless story of forbidden love a scintillating injection of raw passion and youthful vitality. Confined against their will by a society that seeks to divide, our two young lovers must follow their hearts as they risk everything to be together. A masterful re-telling of an ageless tale of teenage discovery and the madness of first love, Romeo and Juliet garnered universal critical acclaim when it premiered in 2019, and now returns to the New Adventures repertoire alongside the very best of Bourne’s world renowned dance theatre productions.

Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, collaborating with the New Adventures Artistic team; Etta Murfitt (Associate Artistic Director), Lez Brotherston (Set and Costume design), Paule Constable (Lighting Design), Paul Groothuis (Sound Design) and Arielle Smith (Associate Choreographer) with Terry Davies’ thrillingly fresh orchestrations of Prokofiev’s dynamic score.

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Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet ON TOUR

Our review on Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet - The Lowry, Salford - Wednesday 12th July 2023 by Lizzie Johnston

Our Rating

Romeo & Juliet is the classic love story told many times in many ways. From classic musical West Side Story to family film Gnomeo & Juliet, there’s no denying it’s a storyline we’re all familiar with. Another known telling is the ballet with a score by Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev and last night’s showing at The Lowry was certainly a unique spin on the tale. 

British choreographer, Matthew Bourne, is widely hailed as the UK's most popular and successful choreographer and director, and has been creating and directing since 1986. His retelling of Shakespeare’s famous lovebirds is a contemporary take accompanied by a new orchestration of Prokofiev’s music, he tells the timeless story of forbidden love with a scintillating injection of raw passion and youthful vitality. 

The story is so well known that minor details can happily go amiss and the audience can get lost in the beauty of the choreography, this certainly isn’t a textbook retelling. Bourne’s production was intentionally ambiguous from the get go with the story based at the Verona Institute - he had the audience questioning whether this was a school, a hospital or even a social experiment. What is clear is that the young people are confined against their will by society and divided by gender, girls on one side and the boys another. 

The set itself was something straight from a dystopian world, it wouldn’t go amiss in The Handmaid’s Tale. Bright white walls, clear segregation, surrounded by barriers and alarms, it was obvious the characters were trapped. This dystopian take really highlighted the desperation Romeo & Juliet had in the fact they had to risk everything to be together. The ending moments of their dying love (literally!) made the white-tiles become even brighter making the audience feel sympathy for the young people trapped within the institute. The bold, deep red blood, which gradually covered more of the pristine white costumes, gave this scene a new dynamic and raw feeling of hopelessness.

A stand out moment was the scene, which to me came across as almost a school dance, where the lovers first met. You immediately saw the sizzling chemistry between the dancers and their moments together were more gentle and intimate compared to the rest of the cast who were much more dynamic and bold. This was the beginning of the teenage discovery and madness of first love. 

Cordelia Braithwaite (Sleeping Beauty, The Car Man, Nutcracker!) gave several layers to Juliet, portraying her as gentle and shy in some moments yet brave and strong minded when she needed to be. Her graceful movement and effortless flair paired perfectly with Romeo, danced by Paris Fitzpatrick (Early Adventures, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet). They were completely lost when with each other, it was extremely intimate and was a true portrayal of the deep connection shown throughout the retellings of the story. It’s what makes the characters so iconic, this desperate need to be together. 

Bourne’s choreography was bold, dynamic and sharp. I turned up thinking it was going to be more of the traditional ballet style, but it definitely was a contemporary take and not full of white tutus. There’s no denying Bourne's extraordinary and creative mind, delivering a unique and unseen spin on an arguably overfamiliar tale. In the production, Bourne has deliberately chosen performers at the start of their careers, echoing the ferociously youthful story being told on stage. It’s punchy, bold and a stand-out reimagining.

Romeo & Juliet is a production danced stunningly from beginning to end and there’s no denying the incredible talent displayed by the entire cast. With elements of dreamy innocence and harsh determination, it’s a whirlwind account of a fast fixation between two young lovers.



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