Romeo et Juliette – Les Ballets de Monte Carlo: London Coliseum, 23 April 2015

Stir it up

More than a brief fling. Lucien Postlewaite and Noelani Pantastico in Romeo et Juliette. Photo by Alice Blangero

More than a brief fling. Lucien Postlewaite and Noelani Pantastico in Jean-Christrophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette. Photo by Alice Blangero

I’m not going to talk about the ending of this Romeo et Juliette. If you’re going to watch it, it’s best you make your own judgement. Regardless, it’s the material leading up to it that’s interesting.

Bare curved screens and a ramp make up the staging which puts the storytelling emphasis very much on the dancing. While the narrative mostly follows Shakespeare’s tale, Jean-Christophe Maillot, as he is wont to do, has slipped in one or two of his own variations, such as Tybalt feeling traumatised when he kills Mercutio and Friar Laurence appearing as a leading figure throughout the ballet. They were all interesting possibilities but none of them were fully explored or ultimately gave a different perspective on the tale.

The one major idea that did work was to portray the characters as kids. They’re young, they’re messing about and they have no swords. None of it seems serious until the heat-of-the-moment death of Mercutio when suddenly a whole adult world of loss and despair comes crashing in on them all.

Maillot’s choreography goes from the sublime to the baffling. Some of the more athletic parts are simply stunning but there’s also a lot of meaningless arm-waggling going on. The fluid interactions of the duets and ensemble pieces work best and it’s good to see someone approach the Dance of the Knights with a bit of choreographic dynamism. There was some comedy too – Tybalt’s butt-kicking drop-kick was great.

The dancers of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo are superb and it is they who make this show. To an individual, they’re strong, assured and their classical technique is fearless. Noelani Pantastico’s Juliette is faintly annoying at first but once she meets Romeo her transition to romantic, sex-hungry, emotionally wracked young woman is convincingly portrayed. Lucien Postlewaite’s Romeo has less psychological depth to play with but the scenes featuring him and Pantastico together are terrific. The balcony pas de deux was beautiful; their coy explorations of each other’s bodies was wonderfully exploited within a childlike framework of innocent glee.

George Oliveira as Mercutio was a brilliant comic and it was fun to watch Maude Sabourin’s Nurse. Mostly restricted to overwrought solos Alexis Oliveira’s Friar Laurence and April Ball’s Lady Capulet seemed to belong to another ballet but the quality of movement they both brought to bear was impressive. Alvaro Prieto’s Tybalt was just getting interesting when he copped it.

Jérôme Kaplan’s costumes were attractive and the pacing of the piece worked well. I walked out of the theatre feeling slightly baffled but the dancers, they’re just so damned good.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s Romeo et Juliette runs at the London Coliseum until 25 April 2015 and tickets can be bought on the ENO website.

Gerard Davis

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