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 Post subject: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 4:06 am 
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<img src="http://www.victorhochhauser.co.uk/Graphics/romeo_juliet400.jpg" alt="" />

26, 27 July at 7.30pm
28 July at 2.00pm and 7.30pm
Royal Opera House

Press release

An electrifying new production of Romeo & Juliet, directed by the brilliant British theatre director Declan Donnellan and choreographed by Radu Poklitaru, will be seen for the first time outside Russia. Set to Prokofiev's magnificent score, the production embodies all the drama and passion of Shakespeare's text.

From the first fateful meeting of the star-crossed lovers to their untimely and tragic deaths, this most famous of love stories is brought to life in a vivid and intense staging.


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 8:59 am 
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Location: London UK
Romeo and Juliet
Bolshoi Ballet
ROH London
26th July 1904


The new Bolshoi production of “Romeo and Juliet” is a pared down version in every way. The running time is approximately an hour shorter than we’ve come to expect and consequently Prokofiev’s music comes in for something of a hacking, not just from the musical cuts, but also with some rearranging in addition. Sets are minimal to non-existent and the modern dress costumes are mostly blacks and greys with only the costumes of Rosalind and Lady Capulet providing a splash of colour for most of the ballet.

The action moves so fast that no sooner have we been introduced to Juliet, dancing happily around a pair of corpses (casualties of the family feud) than we are at the Capulet ball. The dysfunctional Capulets’ in modern evening dress rather than renaissance costumes, made me realise that this family represents an idle leisured class for whom feuding with the neighbours helps fend a off a perpetual state of ennui. Lady Capulet appears to be dealing with her personal ennui with her nephew Tybalt and spoilt brat Juliet initially reacts as if an interlude with Paris looks like fun as they exit the stage together.

Romeo joins the party with his friend Mercutio in drag with the latter quickly attracting the amorous attentions of Tybalt. Juliet returns to the ballroom to encounter Romeo in a striking passage of silence as Juliet makes her move on the rather passive Romeo before swooning at his feet. Meanwhile Tybalt attempts to snog Mercutio, who chooses that moment to reveal he is a man. The assembled guests rock with laughter at Tybalt’s embarrassment and from that moment on Mercutio is a marked man as far as Tybalt is concerned.

The entire corps de ballet accompanies Romeo and Juliet in the balcony scene often forming a barrier forcing the couple apart. The corps seems to occupy a position in this ballet similar to a Greek chorus, present at every important juncture and commenting among themselves. They also provide those lifted tableaux that used to be such a feature of the ballets of Grigorovitch, though of course this may not be intentional. The marriage takes place without the connivance of Juliet’s nurse, because the nurse doesn’t feature in this production at all. After the wedding Tybalt gets his revenge on Mercutio by stabbing him in the back, Romeo stabs Tybalt repeatedly and as her parents emote over their nephew’s body Juliet kisses Romeo not as an act of forgiveness after her cousin’s death, but because she is clearly indifferent.

Act II opens with the most passionless and un-erotic bedroom scene I’ve ever seen with the ever-present corps in attendance, a corps that swallows Romeo up as he makes his abrupt exit from Juliet. After Romeo’s hasty departure, Juliet is confronted by her parents and Paris kitted out in morning dress for her wedding. After a very physical tussle with Paris she flees to Friar Lawrence (running vigorously on the spot), takes the sleeping potion and apparently dies. At this point the most unattractive moment in the choreography occurs as while Juliet is laid out on her tomb the female corps de ballet display their crotches to the audience while the males, down on all fours, waggle their backsides.

There is no Paris to challenge Romeo at the tomb and indeed there are no mourners there at all apart from the ever-present corps. Romeo dances with Juliet’s supposedly dead body before stabbing himself. Juliet awakens at first ecstatic to discover she is still alive, her joy turning to fear in the confines of the sepulchre. On discovering Romeo she also stabs herself and is laid across his body in death by the corps.

Romeo and Juliet were danced by Denis Savin and Maria Alexandrova, he rather down beat and she far more forceful. As this was a production that had little to do with romantic passions, it’s difficult to assess how good or otherwise they were in the scheme of outstanding interpreters of these roles as choreographically neither was challenged at all. Perhaps it was Mercutio and Tybalt who stole the show, simply because they were given the most interesting steps to perform. The laid back ironic Mercutio danced by Yuri Klevtsov contrasted well with the up tight Tybalt of Denis Medvedev, here not so much a ‘Prince of Cats’ as a sufferer of ‘small man syndrome’.
Ilse Liepa and Victor Barykin gave the Capulet parents much more significance than usual simply through the power of their strong personalities. As I mentioned earlier Juliet had no nurse in this production and Romeo was short of a pal as Benvolio had also been pencilled out; though perhaps the most serious omission was that of Escalus, a small role but vitally important in representing society’s opprobrium of the warring families.

There was enthusiastic applause at the end of the evening, but I could find no admirers of the work among the ballet fans I spoke to afterwards. In a way this was a shame as it was an interesting piece with some striking ideas and had a smaller contemporary company taken on this ballet I would probably have rated it more highly. But danced by the Bolshoi I simply couldn’t get over the feeling that these glorious dancers were being criminally wasted.

Significantly, this ballet has been referred to as Declan Donnellan’s “Romeo and Juliet” rather than that of the choreographer Radu Poklitaru. Whether this production marks the start of an interest in ballet by theatre producers remains to be seen. As a theatregoer I’ve become accustomed to outlandish productions of Shakespeare over the years, but a ballet deals with music as well as with text and perhaps it was the lacerations to Prokofiev’s score that left me ultimately dissatisfied by this highly idiosyncratic production.


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 1:20 pm 
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I did enjoy this production, although I agree with Cassandra that parts were indeed passionless, and certain sections/characters would have been more satisfying if fleshed out a bit.

It was an interesting move to have a theatre director at the helm, it did feel very much like a piece of theatre or opera rather than a ballet. To be honest I found the choreography fairly forgettable, but I enjoyed the stylishness and the storytelling and there were some visually striking moments.

The problem of dealing with a story that's been told so many times is everyone's already got an idea of what it should be like. I'd recommend this R&J to theatre and dance fans alike, but not hardened balletomanes perhaps.

Full review to follow.


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:13 pm 
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Quote:
Romeo and Juliet

By LUKE JENNINGS
The Guardian
July 28, 2004

It's not often that you hear booing at the ballet, but booing there unmistakeably was as the director, Declan Donnellan, and the choreographer, Radu Poklitaru, of the Bolshoi's new Romeo and Juliet took to the stage after the London premiere.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:27 pm 
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ARTS: Romeo and Juliet/Bolshoi Royal Opera House, London

By CLEMENT CRISP
The Financial Times
July 28, 2004

There are a few admirable moments, as when Mercutio smears blood from his wounds on to Romeo's face, baptising him to vengeance, and when, as the bedroom scene ends, Romeo leaves, trailing a bed-sheet, and Juliet holds it as a last memory of her lover.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:35 pm 
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A 'Romeo' without sexual tension, anger or feeling

By ZOE ANDERSON
The Independent
July 27, 2004

Poklitaru's choreography is a grey abstraction. He avoids naturalistic gesture, but he avoids dance steps, too.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:37 pm 
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Declan Donnellan: Ballet boy

The Independent
July 25, 2004

He has made an indelible mark on British theatre. Yet it's the Russians who love Declan Donnellan the most, says Claire Wrathall. So much so, they've entrusted him with a 'Romeo and Juliet' for their beloved Bolshoi. There's one problem: he doesn't know the first thing about dance.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2004 8:23 am 
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Location: London UK
Quote:
It's not often that you hear booing at the ballet, but booing there unmistakeably was as the director, Declan Donnellan, and the choreographer, Radu Poklitaru, of the Bolshoi's new Romeo and Juliet took to the stage after the London premiere.
I feel I must comment here as I certainly did not hear any booing last night. The applause was lengthy and enthusiastic and if Mr Jennings heard a boo from where he was sitting, it must have been an isolated protest which was drowned out by the cheers from the rest of the house.


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2004 2:04 pm 
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Location: London, England
Bolshoi Ballet – Romeo & Juliet
Royal Opera House
26 July 2004

Ballet-goers are sometimes accused of being stuck in their ways. The old classics (Swan Lake et al) pack theatres while more modern, directional works struggle to fill seats. A clever way to get around this is to take an old story and teach it some new tricks. The Bolshoi, grand jetéing into the 21st century, chose theatre director Declan Donnellan to overhaul Romeo & Juliet. In collaboration with choreographer Radu Poklitaru, Donnellan has stripped the work of some of its characters, its sentimentality, even of its ballet. And in place has created a diverting but not entirely satisfying piece of theatre.

The look is a glamorous minimalism, the set dressed only with a wash of sepia lights, and the cast first in shades of grey, then black, via some lovely muted satin ballgowns.

For Donnellan, the challenge of the project lay in storytelling without a script, and in lieu of words, Prokofiev’s score fills the void – sliced to fit this 90 minute version. Even in edited form, Prokofiev’s lush instrumentation provides colour and depth and at times, as much rhythmic verve as Bernstein. It’s a shame the choreography doesn’t quite live up.

Maria Alexandrova as Juliet, and Denis Savin, her star-cross’d lover, both appear appropriately adolescent. She is gangly and loose-limbed while he is eager and puppyish, both at odds with the adult world around them.

When their eyes first meet at the Capulet ball, silence cuts into the score as the couple are propelled into each other’s awkward clutches. It’s less the fizzing excitement of new romance, more a dutiful acceptance of their fate. Unfortunately, Poklitaru just doesn’t give them anything interesting to do. It’s physical theatre minus the innovation plus a few understated triple turns.

Fast-forward to Act 2 and it’s not until Juliet sees that she will be forced to marry Paris that her innocence dissolves. From this chilling realisation comes resolve and suddenly her lines become decisive, focused and mature. At this point, her drastic, deceptive plan does seem like the only possible course of action.

Ilze Liepa, as Lady Capulet, provides the most vivid character on stage. With perhaps a nod to Baz Luhrmann's film version, she is a man-chasing Hollywood wife with one eye on the preening Tybalt. Tybalt’s death at the end of Act 1 sees her rage silently over his corpse while whole rows of women, in full skirts and veils, collapse with grief behind her, pulled to the ground in time with the ominous throb of the music. These stark black figures drowned in red light make the most striking scene of the performance.

The looming presence of the corps de ballet turns out to be an effective dramatic device: in the balcony scene the dancers lift Juliet out of reach of her Romeo; when Juliet cries herself to sleep they are the walls closing in around her; and in the tomb they create an eerie architecture.

In this condensed adaptation there’s not so much time to pull at the heartstrings but there’s still plenty of tragedy. When the lovers ultimately take their own lives, the chorus carry Juliet’s limp corpse to the bed and let it slump across Romeo’s. There’s no eternal embrace, no sense of the couple being finally, blissfully, united; just another two wasted bodies in somebody else’s war.

Donnellan’s production may be neither breathtaking nor groundbreaking, but with some poignant and powerful moments and plenty of style, it is not to be dismissed either.

<small>[ 29 July 2004, 04:34 AM: Message edited by: Lyndsey Winship ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 2:05 am 
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Romeo and Juliet
By Debra Craine for The Times


WHAT were the Bolshoi Ballet management thinking last year when they let Declan Donnellan loose on Romeo and Juliet? The London-based theatre director has taken one of Russia’s favourite ballets and turned it on its head, throwing tradition to the wind and stripping it of everything — classical virtuosity, lyrical pas de deux, even pointe shoes — that the dancers are used to. If Bolshoi bosses wanted to signal a willingness to take creative risks, this is it. But if they wanted a good ballet, well, there is no part of this wilfully perverse two-act rewrite that fits the bill.

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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 2:55 am 
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This production has been absolutely slated in the press hasn't it. I didn't think it was quite as bad as all that, albeit with too much limb shaking and head wobbling masquerading as choreography. Max Hastings wrote a comment piece in the Guardian calling it catastrophic - then again, if I'd spent £190 on tickets like he had, I might be a little bit more bitter.


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 3:35 am 
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We'll be busy that night

By MAX HASTINGS
The Guardian
July 29, 2004

Like almost everybody else in the house, we thought of Jerome Robbins and West Side Story half a century ago. Robbins did it vastly better.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 3:41 am 
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Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House, London

By ZOE ANDERSON
The Independent
July 29, 2004

Donnellan does make confident use of the stage space, left clear by Nicholas Ormerod's minimalist scenery. The lurching, huddled corps is warmed by the bold yellows of Judith Greenwood's lighting.
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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 3:50 am 
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I'm just back in the country, so I speak without having seen this new production of "Romeo and Juliet". However, there are some general comments that can be made about approches to radical works from audiences and critics.

A lot of disappointment with performances and other areas arises from unrealised expectations. I know of a terrific modern ballet version of "Coppelia" which disturbs some audience members who were expecting the traditional version. I also saw a Gala in Tallinn by Kirov dancers that was being used by a young choreographer and his team to perform new work and this also generated a lot of glum faces. Thus, I would expect those who bought tickets, expecting a conventional ballet performance, to be disappointed. Maybe Max Hastings is in this category.

On the other hand, the critics would have had a good idea to expect an off-pointe, radical work and have also been severe on the production. I remember the reviews for the Lyons Opera Ballet "Cendrillon" where at least one critic commented at their disappointment about the use of the music from the ball scene, as compared with traditional productions and this perspective could be described as "it's not what I'm used to". This can also apply where writers judge a performance by its closeness to a legendary portrayal. I suspect that this approach is particularly prevalent among writers, like myself, who have never been dancers and thus depend to a large extent for their credibility on their experience watching dance.

Cassandra makes a different point:

Quote:
...it was an interesting piece with some striking ideas and had a smaller contemporary company taken on this ballet I would probably have rated it more highly. But danced by the Bolshoi I simply couldn’t get over the feeling that these glorious dancers were being criminally wasted.
I can see this argument and we may see an extreme case later this season when Jerome Bel, a minimalist, conceptual dance artist makes a work for Paris Opera Ballet. Personally I would be concerned if a company like the Bolshoi was excluded from performing ballet theatre works that stretched the dancers dramatically, rather than technically. One of the most interesting new ballets I have seen in the past two years has been "Cassandra" by Luciano Cannito. This is also off-pointe and is emotionally rather than technically demanding. Nevertheless, for one strong dancer who performs this role, it is among her favorites.

I have no idea how I would have reacted to this new "Romeo and Juliet", but I have sympathy with your approach to the review Lyndsey, which I would summarise as expectation free and asking the question: "What do I think the artists involved are trying to achieve and how well have they succeeded?" I see Ismene Brown has also followed this approach in the review below.

<small>[ 08 August 2004, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 4:04 am 
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Where is the passion?

By ISMENE BROWN
The Daily Telegraph
July 28, 2004

To start positively: getting a theatre director into the theatrically outdated ballet world is a good idea. All the ballet versions are imperfect, so no violation is done to a sacred corpse...
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