Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet Review

Wales Millenium Centre, Cardiff – until 22 June 2019

Reviewed by Rhys Payne


When I heard that Matthew Bourne’s re-imagination of Romeo and Juliet was heading to Wales Millenium Centre I was apprehensive. The last ballet I saw was three hours long with three intervals and while the dancing was impressive this was at times tedious and repetitive so there was some reservation about this show. However, this ballet exceeded all my expectations. While this show demonstrated the talent and ability of the cast but at the same time, it was modern and contemporary which provided a completely new perspective on ballet that I had never experienced before. One of the many interesting things about this ballet was that the dancing made logical sense. Many of the characters, especially the guard, danced in such a way that it made sense. The movements seemed to reflect the character who was doing them. This was a great inclusion as it made the entire story seem more believable and relatable. Instead of a person randomly breaking into a dance routine instead, it seemed logical to the audience which made the show even more enjoyable. Not only was the dancing incredible but also the orchestra accompaniment was powerful and so the players so should be praised.

This show was based heavily on the traditional tale of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare but there was the inclusion of some more up-to-date themes and story points. For example, there was a same-sex couple who experience police brutality which is one of the primary causes of the prison uproar. This can only benefit the ballet popularity and can help to make it more relevant in modern society. This ballet was also set in a prison/institute which was nice from a production perspective and as the set did not change the dancers had to work extra hard to portray what where they were and what was going on. A highlight scene in this show was one in which they were based in the bedroom and as there were only a few beds on stage they cleverly choreographed a routine that had the men and women alternate from under the bed respectively to show the two scenes running at the time which was genius. From a backstage viewpoint, having beds in the wings obviously take up a lot of space which can be frustrating but also from the audience’s perspective, it made the story easy to follow and continued to show the clever timing/choreography. Also due to the lack of set and props, the dancer had to work hard to show the audience what is going on. This is both a testament to Matthew Bourne’s storytelling and the dancer’s ability and so both should be appealed as there was not a single point where I did not know what was going on. To be able to portray an entire story only through dance, and without dialogue/sets, etc. , it not an easy thing which just shows was clearly this show was designed. Another clear inclusion was the book ending of the entire play with the scene of the two dead characters on a stone block. It was nice to see the continuity and was the completeness of the story. I realised that the main reason this scene appeared at the beginning of the ballet is due to the prologue of Romeo and Juliet. The main point in the prologue of the original play is that “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” and although this was slightly changed in the ballet it was obviously a representation of this dramatic foreshadowing.

Overall, this production was an excellent re-imaging of the classic play and actually showed me a completely new side to ballet and its potential. I would, especially, advise people who have never seen a ballet before to catch this show before it leaves as firstly, the skill and talent of the cast is incredible and is definitely not what you would expect from a ballet. Or if you are a fan of Romeo and Juliet you should watch this show as it provides a new and fresh interpretation of the classic play. I would rate this ballet 5 out of 5 stars and it’s a show not to miss