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Rating: **

Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Summary: classic interpretation, but heavily flawed production

January 25th, 2012

Moscow City Ballet (MCB) must be one of the hardest working ballet troupes in the world. From January 3rd to end of March they will have done nearly 70 shows throughout the UK; varying performances between The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake and, tonight’s show, Romeo & Juliet.

I’ve often thought that Romeo & Juliet would be a difficult text to turn to ballet, the multiple characters and the complex relationships and emotion would be lost without dialogue. And, unfortunately, this production does nothing to quell that.

This production is in 3 acts that progressively improve. Act One, unfortunately, was poor. The first thing you notice is the inadequate orchestration. It’s a small orchestra with an underwhelming sound that takes away the emotion from Pokofiev’s score. Worse still, the playing was flabby and at times out of tune.

Similarly, the dancing should have been tighter. The group scenes, though engaging enough but, were not as tightly performed as you’d hope for. The main overture, Dance of the Knights, lacked the menacing drama you’d expect and resulted in a bunch of men stomping about the stage. Characters came and went, but you’d struggle to work out who was Paris, Tybalt or Mercutio. Still now I have no idea if there was a Rosaline in this production (though she’s credited).

Whilst the orchestra fails to improve throughout the production, the rest does. As we move to act 2 and into the final act, the drama gently builds up and you do get a sense of the story and become emotionally engaged. Whilst the party scenes lack any of the fluidity and care free attitudes you’d expect from a party, the fight scenes do pack a dramatic punch. The combination of sword fighting and ballet made for surprisingly graceful and engaging bedfellows.

The performances between Romeo and Juliet had moments of beauty and some lovely choreography, but lacked any real intimacy. Romeo (Daniil Orlov) seemed unsuited to the character; there was a slight sense that he was going through the motions and never let you believe that he truly loved Juliet. The star of the production Juliet was, undoubtedly, Juliet (Liliya Orekhova) and, when dancing alone, provided a graceful portrayal of a tormented woman in love.

All in all, this production is a mixed bag. Let’s be clear here; this is not the Royal Ballet, and this is not Covent Garden. MCB is performing 4 classic ballets on a near nightly rotation and taking this art form to the four corners of the country. Moreover, they’re doing that at quite remarkable prices. To this end, they must be commended. And, whilst tonight’s production was flawed, there were enough moments to get the audience be engaged and see what a powerful medium ballet could be.

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