Romeo and Juliet
DASHING through modern Italian history from Mussolini to Berlusconi in the space of three acts and an epilogue, this revival of Prokofiev’s ballet forsakes the bright costumes of the renaissance in its early scenes for menacing black shirts and drab brown civilian dress.
Fortunately, the choreography makes up for this with a lively production that moves and entertains.
Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights is put to sinister effect against this fascist Italian setting.
Its ominous brass sets the pace for an initial ballroom scene where the free flow of dance turns to the regimented machine like movement of well drilled shock troops. Then, in a nice piece of stagecraft, the dancers part to reveal Romeo (Erik Cavailari) and Juliet (Sophie Martin) staring at each other, oblivious to all that is going on around them.
Cavailari and Martin make a believably romantic couple, especially in the sensual aftermath of their secret wedding, their great love setting up Cavailari’s final scenes of anguish when he believes Juliet is dead, his Romeo writhing around the stage in distress while Martin hangs limp like a broken rag doll.
The lovers are at the centre of the action, but there are plenty of other fine performances to savour, with Victor Zarallo’s impish Mercutio particularly standing out.
His cheeky fight scene with Christopher Harrison’s militaristic Tybalt is a beautifully choreographed delight, with a more contemporary than classical dance feel — until the knife comes out and the comedy turns to horror.
Also worth looking out for are Juliet’s parents, Owen Thorne sternly charismatic as Capulet, master of all he surveys and commanding attention every time he struts on stage, while Eve Mutso reveals the tenderness beneath the mother’s frosty facade in a moving duet with Martin.
The decision to set each part of the story in a different eras of modern Italian history remains a puzzle, however.
The second act opens in the brighter post-war Italy of Lambrettas, Loren and Lollobrigida, but still anachronistically with Blackshirted Capulets in charge, while the cast make their final bows in jeans and t-shirts. Playing the fictional drama on stage against footage from real-life Italian terrorist atrocities also seems a lapse in taste, but it is the power of the performances rather than the newsreel images which should leave the bigger impression.
• Scottish Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet continues at Eden Court until Saturday 10th May.