'Romeo & Juliet'
by Ana Abad-Carles
November 20, 2007 - Royal Opera House, London
As part of their season at the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet presented Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The ballet, which will have more performances at the end of the season, was danced by several established couples like Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta, but it also had many newcomers to the lead roles due to either artistic choices of the director or unexpected injuries from some of the principals.
Roberta Márquez and Ivan Putrov were one of the scheduled couples making their debut in the roles of the doomed lovers It was a promising debut indeed. Both dancers were beautifully ardent and passionate during the first act, although there still was a lot of dramatic work needed in the second and third acts.
MacMillan’s version of the classic is beautifully crafted and assembled, but it requires very subtle dramatic qualities, especially at certain highly emotionally charged moments. Neither MacMillan nor composer Sergei Prokofief seem keen on allowing the performers to indulge in dramatics at key turning points in the story, as the music shifts and the drama takes off in a split second. There are two instances when this is most obvious. The first is when Mercutio dies at the end of the second act. At this moment, Romeo has little time to grieve for his death, transform this grief into anger and make up his mind to fight Tybald. Unless this transition is clearly indicated, the fight with Tybald seems rushed and a bit pointless. Same principle applies to the second instance when Juliet finds Romeo’s body in the crypt, realises he is dead, grieves and decides to kill herself.
I found that neither Márquez or Putrov had mastered that subtlety in their characterisations, and neither of them seemed to have the layers of depth that make both characters so fascinating to audiences. Their dancing was beautiful though. With the exception of a moment in the second act, during one of the market scenes in which Putrov lost his nerve, the youthfulness this couple brought to the story was most welcome. It was when the drama unfolded, that one started sensing the loss of depth in the characters.
Same can be said of many of the supporting roles. Martin Harvey as Mercutio was fine, but less effective than previous interpreters of the role, including José Martín, who danced the role with Rojo and Acosta. Harvey did not have the technical accomplishment that could make this character special to the audience, and he seemed to be trying too hard to make the comedy aspects of the character work.
In general, one can still admire MacMillan’s genius for dramatic narrative. The piece has more than stood the test of time, and it provides plenty of opportunities to young dancers in terms of both technique and acting. It just needs to be polished now and properly nuanced. Perhaps there are too many ghosts haunting this ballet, and the challenge to new dancers is too great. However, both Rojo and Acosta proved the week before that you can still bring the characters to life, that you can still tap on their psyche and bring out new possibilities in their choreographic patterns.
It will be interesting to see what Márquez and Putrov make of these roles in a couple of years’ time. The debut was promising, and let’s just hope that it flourishes and develops into something deeper, into real characters capable of shifting emotions and making these believable to the audience.
One last word of praise for Steve McRae, the leading dancer of the Mandolin Dance in the second act, as he brought his usual joy and vibrancy to the scene.