Romeo and Juliet
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The Royal Ballet's old war horse is still handsome, but not so sexy
It’s 50 years since Kenneth Macmillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was premiered and the perennial favourite still looks startlingly handsome. Macmillan’s genius for mining the emotional intensity of a story has no better showcase than this production. The challenge for its principal couples is to convey the heartbreaking, full-tilt rush to the abyss of its star-cross’d lovers while doing justice to Macmillan’s magisterial choreography.
Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae certainly have one half of the equation nailed: their technical mastery is a joy to watch, and brings many small details in the steps into brilliantly sharp focus. Lamb, with those endless slender legs scissoring through her jumps, is exquisitely pretty in her preciseness; McRae can combine speed and control to devastating effect in his bravura solo moments. They both excel at using the stillness woven into the piece to best dramatic advantage.
And yet… there’s something lacking in the dramatic interpretation. McRae’s Romeo has a convincingly larky, couldn’t-give-a-4X boyishness about him to start with, and he looks positively drunk on a rush of dopamine when Cupid’s arrow strikes. But there’s absolutely no spark when he actually gets his hands on his girl. Lamb, meanwhile, never really finds Juliet’s hectic teenage passion. The pair seem delighted with each other’s company in the pivotal balcony duet, but not exactly prepared to fling themselves into the void for love.
She’s better at conveying Juliet’s dread-filled maturity after the wedding night, and the chilly distance that rather hampers her love story comes into its own when she displays her icy disdain for Ryoichi Hirano’s Paris.
Elsewhere, of particular note, Gary Avis brings lowering presence and dramatic complexity as Tybalt; Alexander Campbell’s Mercutio is full of charm and spirit as Romeo’s companion. The swordplay in their fatal duel is thrillingly fast and furious, and Avis makes Tybalt’s distress at watching his foe writhing in his dying agonies touchingly convincing.
BY: SIOBHAN MURPHY