Reviews of the Royal Ballet's arena performance of 'Romeo and Juliet.'
The Arts Desk
The old Millennium Dome's hangar-like interior has meant rethinking the presentation of Kenneth MacMillan's 1965 Romeo and Juliet on brash, rock concert lines.
No pit meant putting Barry Wordsworth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a narrow glass box above the stage. Their playing has been subtly amplified, flooding the great barn of the O2 with Prokofiev's thundering score.
What is obviously arena-orientated is the three large overhead screens, on which floor-level cameras project the live action, to help those in the £10 seats the length of two football pitches away see something other than specks in the distance (the Balcony Scene above, pictured by Tristram Kenton). On them too are the staging’s most innovative feature, the dramatised backstage links between scenes pre-filmed by the Ballet Boyz, former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, which atmospherically set up each scene: the Capulets mustering for their celebrated Dance of the Knights, Juliet putting on her nightie before the balcony scene. These are very evocative and beautiful, with the backstage theatre lights as much part of the context as the props and costumes
Acosta is on form as Romeo, focused in his solos and ardent in the duets. The whole company is on its mettle for this new venture, dancing with fierce pride for a new audience. In luxury casting, Sergei Polunin danced Benvolio, stepping in to lead the mandolin dance with sensational verve. Rupert Pennefather is an elegant Paris, sure of his rights but not certain how to insist on them. Elizabeth McGorian rages grandly over the corpse of Thiago Soares’ swaggering Paris.
But it’s Rojo who carries the performance. The last act focuses on Juliet: her confrontations with her family, her flight to Friar Lawrence, the lovers’ deaths in the tomb. Rojo’s drive brings these scenes into closeup, intimate even in the O2.