As classic romances go, Romeo and Juliet is up there with the best.
It has all the ingredients: eyes meeting across a crowded room, longing, retribution and an enormous helping of heartbreak. Spoiler alert: this story does not end well.
Well suited for adaptation to dance by virtue of its drama and passion, so it is that Northern Ballet’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot – poured heart and soul into transporting a willing Canterbury audience at The Marlowe to 16th Century Verona.
Performed over three acts, the ballet uses a minimal set design and unelaborate costumes, which allows greater attention to be paid to the dancers’ dramatic storytelling.
Standout performances came from Martha Leebolt as Juliet, whose ability to convey a complex story originally intended to impact through the spoken word was breathtaking.
Matthew Koon, as Mercutio, was brilliantly and unexpectedly comedic in his role as Romeo’s friend and Tybalt’s nemesis. His ultimate fate was affectingly and movingly played in a wonderfully choreographed slow-motion scene.
The company as a whole did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life with Sergei Prokofiev’s famous score behind them.
But as the beautiful and engaging performance wound to a close, I began to find the story difficult to connect to.
The play builds to an enormously emotional climax, which is at the crux of its lasting appeal.
However, after a good 10 minutes of Juliet’s soul searching – albeit beautifully acted by Martha Leebolt - Romeo came in and almost immediately saw himself off. The mother swept in and out again. The Friar stood artistically in the corner.
In the event, its tragic ending was more art than substance.
Mercutio had all my sympathy in this ballet. And for a play called Romeo and Juliet, that's a bit of a shame.
Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s Romeo and Juliet is at The Marlowe in Canterbury all this week, starting at 7.30pm each day until Saturday, with matinees at 2.30pm on Thursday and Saturday. To book, call 01227 787787.