César Morales as Romeo and Momoko Hirata as Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


Ask anyone to name a love story and the chances are they will come up with Romeo and Juliet, and when it comes to Shakespeare’s tale of star cross’d lovers in ballet, then choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 version is widely regarded as one of, if not, the best.

The ballet marked a triumphal return to the home stage of the Hippodrome for Birmingham Royal ballet after more than 18 months in the pandemic wilderness, with classes on zoom and theatres dark.

All in stark contrast to a glorious performance, full of life, on Paul Andrews sumptuous set recalling the rich colours and images of Italian Renaissance paintings - but a reminder of the dark days past with a socially distanced opening night as auidnces were welcomed back by BRB's director Carlos Acosta.

Incidentally, by a quirk of fate, the battle of Verona’s warring houses, the Montagues and the Capulets, was matched in ballet by the houses of BRB and The Royal Ballet who both opened their 1921-22 seasons on the same night with the same ballet!

Theirs would have to have been near faultless though to match a stunning performance from BRB which gave us excitement, tenderness, romance, brutality and, ultimately, the inevitable tragedy.

César Morales is an athletic Romeo capable of a wide range of emotions in his dancing, dancing which he makes look so natural and effortless while Momoko Hirata must have been born to dance the role of Juliet. She is every little girl’s dream of a ballerina - diminutive, elegant, pretty and divine to watch. Her feet are so quick and precise and she could not only pass as the teenage lover but manages to express all her emotions from elation to despair.

A classy performance from a classy pairing.

If they are the goodies then Rory Mackay is the baddy, the Capulet’s hard man Tybalt who is ready to reach for his sword at the merest glance from a Montague, or one suspects, anyone else he takes an immediate dislike to. He struts about like a gangland enforcer in a deliciously nasty performance – you know they are good when Tybalt gets pantomime boos at the curtain call.

Momoko oct21

Momoko's Juliet set to take her fateful decision on the road to tragedy 

Swords play quite a role in the ballet with not only the decisive fight between Romeo’s friend, the cheerful Mercutio, danced beautifully by Tzu-Chao Chou, and Tybalt – when we discover the Capulet hit man doesn’t stick to the civilised rules of combat – but also in a mass brawl in Act 1 as the market place becomes a battleground.

Whoever did the fight co-ordinating deserves a mention. This was full bloodied stuff, not just slapping each other’s swords, there are thrusts and parries filling the stage in a battle that ended up with a body count to rival a series of Midsomer Murders.

There was good support from Haoliang Feng as another of Romeo’s friends Benvolio while Alexander Yap is a nicely frustrated Paris, the noblemen selected by Juliet’s parents, Lord and Lady Capulet, Michael O’Hare and Yijing Zhang, for an arranged marriage to Juliet – a demand she cannot accept and one which is the catalyst for the ensuing tragedy.

Fussing around like a mother hen is the nurse, played by Yvette Knight while there are strong performances adding to the mix with dances from Juliet’s friends, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Miki Mizutani and Rachele Pizzillo, Max Maslen as the soloist in the Mandolin Dance and the three harlots, Rosanna Ely, Emma Price and Eilis Small.

Prokofiev’s score soars, caresses and threatens in equal measure with The Dance of the Knights, after The Apprentice, now one of the most recognisable pieces in ballet a recurring theme all played with the excellence we have come to expect from Birmingham’s other symphony orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Philip Ellis.

Romeo and Juliet is a story of passion, of love, of blood feuds, all sowing the seeds of inevitable tragedy and BRB tell Shakespeare’s classic tale quite beautifully. If ever you wanted to see what ballet is all about with all its drama, emotion and beauty, then this is your chance . . . for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.. The lovers dance on to 09-10-21.

Roger Clarke



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