ROYAL BALLET, ROMEO AND JULIET, BIRMINGHAM, JUNE 1992

 

From: FINANCIAL TIMES, June 3, 1992

Dance Review by Clement Crisp


ROMEO AND JULIET

Peter Wright has for some years hoped to present a staging of MacMillan’s «Romeo and Juliet» for his section of the Royal Ballet. The move to Birmingham, which brought increased forces and stage potential, made this hope a fact, and on Monday night Birmingham Royal Ballet showed us their own «Romeo». And perhaps because BRB is, in essence, an ensemble young in spirit as in personnel, Sir Kenneth MacMillan has chosen a young talent to decorate the production.

Last year he saw the graduate show of the Wimbledon College of Art stage design course, and was impressed by the work of Paul Andrews. So, at the age of 22, Mr. Andrews found himself entrusted with a three act ballet as his first professional commission. The decision was bold, but it has produced decoration which has an enthusiasm, a freshness of eye, that accord very well with this tragedy of youthful passion performed by a youthful company.

Mr. Andrews has inevitably had to accommodate the shape of his set to existing choreographic outlines. His basic structure, of a curved and tiered colonnade broken by a central stair, is handsome, and the stage space is varied - for Juliet’s bedroom; for the Capulet tomb - to provide a more intimate, rectangular dance area. The decoration pays its historical dues to quattrocento and cinquecento painting and architecture in shapes and colour...

Monday night’s premiere was intended to feature the Moscow guests Nina Ananiashvili and Alexei Fadeyechev, both experienced MacMillan interpreters after their success in «Prince of the Pagodas». Unhappily, Fadeyechev has sustained a knee injury, and Kevin O’Hare who replaced him, though conscientious in everything, could not provide all the emotional and physical rapport demanded by Ananiashvili’s gifts. She is one of nature’s Juliets. The role is often played in terms of innocence awakening to a first passion. With Ananiashvili there is the added fascination of seeing a ballerina «as» Juliet. The power and the savour of the interpretation lie in the reconciliation of a child’s grace with the authority of the superlative classical artist...

In the first act, Ananiashvili played sweetly to O’Hare’s innocent Romeo, the balcony scene exquisitely done. It was in the third act - which is Juliet’s alone - that she revealed her command of the role. As Romeo leaves her bedroom, she stands as if stunned, lost in dreams; sitting for an eternity on the bed, we see her draw courage from her feelings as her body becomes erect; the run to Friar Laurence has an irresistible momentum (and was superlatively lit by Mr. H. - A. Sjoquist); facing to her parents’ anger, she bows in acquiescence, then eddies away from them (and from her plight) in an exquisite pas de bourree that speaks of her innermost feelings. It is Ananiashvili’s sensitivity to MacMillan’s physical truths, and the refined utterance she gives them, that make this so beautiful and honest a reading, and one so grandly that of a ballerina...