Review: Northern Ballet shine in Romeo and Juliet

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In Northern Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, which is touring nationally, Prokofiev’s wonderful music is played by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and the choreography is by Jean-Christophe Maillot.

The set consists of a series of sliding walls and a mobile ramp, a modernist design which contrasted nicely with the elaborate interior of Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre.

The passion and conflict of Shakespeare’s story are ritualized in the dancing – which is dynamic, fluid, quirky, grounded in everyday gestures and expressions, and very sensual: hands run over bodies, faces lean in to each other, mouths meet and kiss.

The lighting changes from moment to moment, mirroring and intensifying the range of emotions. There are some fast-moving episodes, but also a fight sequence when the dancers move in slow motion, andtimes when they are completely still.

The contrasts are exhilarating. Romeo (GiulianoContadini) and Juliet (Martha Leebolt) are fresh and convincing. Their two pas de deux are performed with delicacy and a captivating intensity. Nothing diverts attention from the patterns they weave.

Tybalt (Javier Torres) is uncompromisingly aggressive. The Nurse (Pippa Moore) is both caring and funny. Friar Lawrence (Mlindi Kulashe) has a key role.

The choices he makes have catastrophic results. But his main function is to unify the action – a compelling presence who embodies the suffering of the very people he tries to help. The tensions are psychic as well as social. There is a satisfying wholeness about this production. A mesmerising show.