Yet another very long review...<P>I thought for the hell of it, I'd go down and check out Fernanda Oliveira's debut in R+J. Turns out it was a school matinee which put a whole different spin on things. I had a great seat in the first tier box in the centre, but I'm unconvinced that it was really worth it.<P>Oliveira and Nathan Coppen certainly look the part, with their youth and beauty. Oliveira, from Brazil, has been in ENB for less than a year. Though still in the corps she's already danced Odette and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and resembles a young Tamara Rojo. I thought she did a fine job and the performance showed she could handle the technical challenges of a leading role. There were a few awkward moments where I felt her acting a bit overwrought (Juliet's discovery of Romeo's death) and other areas where I felt nothing at all (the family scenes). But there were moments - when she's on her own after being told to marry Paris, and also later in the potion scene - she had so much tension in her body - I thought she would break herself in half. She would be completely still but I could still see the muscles in her arms moving. Or when she moves towards the bed to retieve the potion, she paused looking back longingly at the window. I suspect she'll continue to grow and add her own flourishes to the role. <P>I guess the same can be said for Coppen, a soloist with ENB. His Romeo was sweet and boyish, though he seemed a bit lifeless at Mercutio's death. Still he seemed very confident and was a lot of fun to watch. I didn't find him very passionate but he really brought life into his pdd with Oliveira.<P>It was very surreal to see Shi-Ning Liu as Mercutio after his fantastic Tybalt a few days ago. He made a very lively and exciting Mercutio, upstaging Romeo in the market scenes and outside the Capulet House, in my mind. I thought he lacked the humour that Yat Sen Chang brought to the role, and much prefer him as Tybalt. Daniel Jones just didn't have that carzed streak of insanity that Liu had. I still have doubts about the way Mercutio's death is played. It doesn't look realistic at all, and the audience knew it. The kids in front of me were wondering why he kept going on, and on, and on.<P>I had a much better view than before, so I could enjoy the patterns in the corps. I think this production is much better at showing off it's corps than it's stars. I kept marvelling at how seamless Dean's choreography is - the market scenes are so much fun to watch. The ballroom scene wasn't any less intense, and it's wonderful watching the Capulet guests marching in from 6 different entrances. And it's a nice touch how the lighting alters with changes in mood. The three pdd - the ballroom, the balcony and the bedroom are really lovely and Oliveira and Coppen were beautiful to watch, though one of the lifts seemed a bit rough. <P>I'll be looking forward to hearing other reviews because it was very hard to judge this one objectively with all the sceaming kids. Ok, it wasn't all that bad, but I wouldn't really recommend going to a R+J school matinee if you're hoping to be moved. I guess the "circus" atmosphere of the round must have something to do with it. These kids - they would clap and cheer at every pause or break in the music. I think some of the dancers had a hard time hearing the music over the clapping and were straining to look at the conductor. It was fun to hear so much enthusiasm - I don't recall ever hearing this level of noise or excitement at a regular performance. But Mercutio's stabbing - cheers, Tybalt's stabbing - more cheers. Note, they hadn't even died yet. I don't think they quite got the tragedy of the whole story.
Which was fine, though I was a bit perturbed when Juliet stabbing herself got the loudest cheers of all. <P>Plus they kept woo-hooing and whistling throughout the pdd, which are more obviously erotic than MacMillan's version and has Romeo stretching Juliet on the ground. Of course they loved that. And especially during the kissing - there's a lot of kissing. It was actually quite funny and I had a giggle myself, though I was absolutely dreading the bedroom scene - it starts with Romeo's return to Juliet and they roll around in bed for a bit. I thank God that Derek Dean didn't carry through with his plan to have R+J undress and dance around in their underwear.<P>Of course it did get annoying at the end. I always get teary when Romeo rushes in into the tomb, his cape flying behind him. There's a moment when Romeo is dragging around Juliet's body, where he lies on his back supporting her with his arms, and gives her a little shake. It looked fake - I don't remember Edur doing that - and brought about loud laughter from the audience, breaking the mood. I won't be surprised if Coppen excludes that next time round. Similarly when Coppen lies down with Oliveira on top, pulling her arms around him, trying to "love her back to life" - I love that so I was plenty mad when the whistling started. By the time it was Oliveira's turn, I got the feeling she was a bit fed up and wanted it all to be over with. Her own death scene seemed a bit awkward and rushed.<P>I'd be curious to know what the dancers thought of the atmosphere. It must have been especially hard for Oliveira this being her debut and all. I wonder at the wisdom of ENB of letting her make her debut in a school matinee - perhaps they should have given it to more experienced principals, though I can't see them letting Oaks and Edur have a go. In any case, a credit to all the dancers just for making it through. I marvel at the fact that they managed to stay in character, since I kept wanting to laugh. Sweet though, how at the end this one boy in front of me gave the dancers his own mini-standing ovation. All in all, not a very memorable R+J, but a good time nonetheless.