Fair Verona Re-Imagined: Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet

The classic story of boy meets girl, Romeo and Juliet is one of history’s most famous romantic tragedies. Having been dramatized numerous times for the stage as well as film and musicals, there has never been a revival quite like Matthew Bourne’s latest masterpiece. The white-tiled Verona institute serves as a rigid and clinical confinement […]

Claire Maggie Dowens
13th October 2019
image: Theatre Royal, Matthew Bourne
The classic story of boy meets girl, Romeo and Juliet is one of history’s most famous romantic tragedies. Having been dramatized numerous times for the stage as well as film and musicals, there has never been a revival quite like Matthew Bourne’s latest masterpiece.

The white-tiled Verona institute serves as a rigid and clinical confinement for teenagers who are strictly governed by guards and medics. This chilling and detached backdrop serves as a landscape for an unhinged world in which the youths are disciplined through a combination of punishment and medication. This atmosphere is further underlined by the energy of the cast; movements are enacted in sync with one another with an almost slave-like drilling to the forceful rhythm of the music. The original Prokofiev score has been revamped by Terry Davies to compose an edgier and more grounded sound. Bourne creates a relationship between the two star crossed lovers which is utterly magnetic and mesmerising to watch: with moves entwined, lips locked, a passionate intimacy is bound within the choreography and brings a sexual energy which sets the production alight.

"Bourne's imaginative approach delivers a narrative shift and contemporary twist upon the traditional Italian tale in which young people are set against a brutal system."

An unexpected turn of events occurs in the interval as the dancers unveil themselves one by one onto the stage in unblemished silence. Each conveys an almost method-acting display of mental insanity, which captivates members of the audience and further sustains the disturbing and eerie motifs of the performance. Even more surprising, is the heart-rending finale which brilliantly culminates with Lady Gaga’s electrifying pop “Bad Romance.” Theatrically played out at a roaring volume, it provides an exhilarating boost, fresh injection of life and somewhat ironic resolution to an otherwise catastrophic ending. A fantastic piece brimming with contemporary adolescent themes of mental illness, sex and rampage, this is certainly not one to be missed!

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