Romeo and Juliet - Matthew Bourne Review - Mayflower

Romeo and Juliet, the story of two star crossed lovers caught in a family rivalry but ready to do whatever it takes to be together. That may be the story that we all know, but Matthew Bourne's New Adventures adaptation of this classic tale is far more dark, disturbing and hauntingly beautiful. I went along to the Mayflower in Southampton to see for myself how this Shakespearian story of love and fate had been adapted for a new audience of ballet fans. 

Romeo and Juliet is a play that has been adapted time and time again for various different audiences. From the classic cult film by Baz Lurhmann to the glorious 50's rendition that we know as West Side Story. It's a show that can be adapted time and time again and yet still feel new, refreshing and relevant. 

Bourne's adaptation is no different. With a minimalistic and stark white set, it feels almost clinical at times. Add to the fact that this ballet is set to the music of Prokofiev, which is one of the most well known scores in ballet (and more recently in the BBC Apprentice boardroom!). It gives the show a haunting and jarring soundtrack and adds emotional dimensions you would never expect from an accompanying score. 

Set in the Verona Institute, you are greeted with groups of boys and girls clad entirely in white, following orders and conforming to whatever punishments the nurses and guards are placing on them. Whether the location is a psychiatric hospital, a young offenders institute or even a boarding school in the not too distant future seems to be left up to the interpretation of the audience. All you know is that with its high rise fences and clinical feel, it's not somewhere that these young dancers want to be.  

With a guards versus inmates rivalry as opposed to the feuding families we know from the original tale, it's easy to instantly draw a dislike to the abusive guards as one (Tybalt played by Danny Reubens) drags Juliet away from her peers. With Romeo being introduced as a neglected son of a senator and his wife, it's easy to see the potential class divide and rivalry in there too. 

The cast themselves were phenomenal. Made up of mostly young performers, some still in their final years at dance schools, you could see the raw talent and the roughness on some of their performances. Those dancers that didn't look like stereotypical ballet dancers graced the stage and blew me away. Both Andy Monaghan and Seren Williams stunned as the title characters as they danced across the stage. But I was absolutely floored by Ben Brown who's completely emotional performance of Mercutio left me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Whilst I don't want to give away too much of the twists and changes in the story, it's safe to say that it's sometimes shocking, sometimes dark and definitely unexpected. At some points we were all sat on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, hanging on to every move on stage. It's a true rollercoaster of emotions and touches upon everything from mental health, to same sex relationships, to raw lust and the true cost of love. A haunting performance that had me completely mesmerised from the opening moves until the final curtain. Despite knowing how the show would end, I was still emotionally exhausted at the end of the show. This is a thrilling retelling that you must go and watch. 

Romeo and Juliet is performing at the Mayflower in Southampton until the 28th September before continuing on its UK Tour. Tickets for the Mayflower can be purchased here. More info on Romeo and Juliet can be found here

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