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'A thoroughly mesmerising production': Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet leaves audience spellbound at Birmingham Hippodrome - review with pictures

By Maria Cusine | Birmingham | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Talk about a Shakespeare shake-up - this is Romeo and Juliet, but not as we know it.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Hippodrome

There are no fueding families or potions in Matthew Bourne's production of the famous tale of doomed teenage love.

He keeps just the skeleton of the original story and puts his own unique modern spin on it, leaving you expecting the unexpected.

The ground-breaking choreographer loves to revive a classic. He shattered convention with his radical reworking of Swan Lake, and now he's delivered his reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

And what a reinvention it is.

Forget the Bard's 'Fair Verona', instead the scene is set in the chilling Verona Institute 'in the not too distant future'.

Mental health is a key theme in this production, with the Institute somewhere between a psychiatric hospital and a correctional facility for teenagers, where the young inmates are controlled through medication and punishment.

Lez Brotherston's simple yet effective set emphasises their imprisonment even further. Framed by staircases and a balcony, the white tiled walls of the semi-circle set are clinical and and as stark as the ensemble's white outfits.

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While there is no family rivalry, there is a division - the young inmates against the system. The system being their elders, the institute guards and parents.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Hippodrome

Juliet, played flawlessly by Seren Williams, is a sensitive and complex soul preyed upon and abused by the brutal guard Tybalt, compellingly played by Danny Reubens. Andrew Monaghan's Romeo is both fragile and intense. He arrives at the institute as the twitchy, troubled son of Senator and Mrs Montague, who are keen to wash their hands of their embarrassing child.

Highlights include the passionate, never-ending kiss scene which sees Williams and Monaghan lock lips for minutes while dancing across the stage and Romeo's initiation by Mercutio and co, starting with the undressing of his suit into his stark white uniform of the institute.

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Prokofiev's powerful score is used to great effect and adds to the dramatic intensity and momentum of the production.

In a story about youth, it is fitting that the production features a cast of extremely talented young performers.

In fact, Bourne gives a step-up to young dancers, including the Black Country's own Lewis Baker.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Hippodrome

The 19 year old, from Walsall, who plays one of the young inmates, was among more than 1,000 young dancers who auditioned to join the Romeo and Juliet production on its nationwide tour. And he is one of six young dancers chosen to perform at the Hippodrome run this week. He performs as one of the young inmates at the Institute

And credit to him. In fact it was hard to tell the difference between the newbies and the more established dancers such was the talent on the stage.

Lewis, as did the rest of the ensemble, impressively conveyed the emotions of the story through movement and facial expression. Fantastic choreography showcased the extremely talented cast of young performers.

A thoroughly mesmerising production - with the tragic finale that we all knew was coming, although not in the way we expected - was quite breathtaking.

The lengthy standing ovation was well deserved. The Bourne supremacy continues.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Hippodrome

Romeo and Juliet runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday

Maria Cusine

By Maria Cusine
@MCusine_Star

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