Northern Ballet Romeo And Juliet

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 23rd September 2016

I suppose I should have done my research but when I saw that the Northern Ballet were performing Romeo and Juliet at the Marlow, I booked immediately.  I know they have a very good reputation which is totally justified.

The dancers were superb - young and lithe and the Orchestra was excellent.  Although I love the music of Tchaikovsky I prefer the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet even though I voiced the Tchaikovsky Balcony Scene over a Ballet Performance in Sydney an aeon ago - sadly I've lost the old LP and the cassette on which it was recorded.

I was an inveterate collector of Theatre programmes but a few years ago I had a huge pile and no idea what to do with them so I donated them to the Royal Theatrical Fund. The only ones I kept were those I'd bought at the Old Vice when I was a schoolgirl.  Our English teacher, Mother Mary David used to take us to performances of Shakespeare and in those days it was only Shakespeare performed at the Vic.  I got some very good autographs and also saw many a star of today in very humble roles at the commencement of their careers - Judy Dench being just one of them.

So I decided that there was no point in continuing to buy programmes unless for a specific purpose.  Last night was one of those times when, had I bought one before the performance, I wouldn't have been so much in the dark.

The ballet opened with this rather sinister figure clad in black doing a mix between mime and ballet and I'd no idea who or what he was meant to be.  After the performance I did buy a programme and discovered that he was Friar Tuck.  The latter has a very small but important part in Shakespeare's play but in this he almost dominated the story. (The young man from whom I purchased the programme said he'd not experienced so many people buying a programme after the show so maybe there were many more like me who were befuddled)

Thank goodness the Director had not messed around with the music so I greatly enjoyed that but I did not like the mix of traditional ballet with very modern jerky movements - the gracefulness and majesty of the ballet seemed to be missing.  

Although I appreciate that a touring company cannot 'carry' elaborate sets, the starkness of the moving white panels added nothing and the costumesd looked like a mix between Roman Togas and traditional ancient Greek costumes.

I've seen Romeo and Juliet many times and the very first time was in the 70's - the John Cranko /Stuttgart Ballet Comapny rendition.  I bawled my eyes out and have never been so moved before or since.  Last night's performance, although danced beautifully, left me absolutely cold emotionally.  I believe in the maxim 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.  The traditional ballet Romeo and Juliet stands on its own merit and does not need to be messed with, in my humble opinion.

So despite their well earned reputation - and they are a very talented company with a superb Orchestra, I will not be attending Northern Ballet again.  As they say 'Chacun à son gout' - each to his own taste and mine is definitely for the traditiional.

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