Robert Tanitch reviews Juliet and Romeo at Sadler’s Wells, London EC1
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb. The Royal Swedish Ballet returns to London after a 20-year absence with Mats Ek’s awful adaptation of Shakespeare’s most popular play. The famous story-line disappears. There is no Friar Lawrence, no sleeping potion, no Juliet discovered dead by the Nurse; no tragedy, in fact.
The star cross’d lovers are very childish and have no charisma. The choreography is strange; the strangeness is, of course, its appeal. The ladies at the ball lift up their skirts as if they are about to do a can-can. The Veronese guard drives around on motorised scooters. Mercutio puts on a tutu.
Mercutio’s death, one of the high spots of the play goes for absolutely nothing. It takes place on the side of the stage; and from where I was sitting in the dress circle, I couldn’t even see the killing happen
Ek ditches Prokofiev and uses a selection of Tchaikovsky. The music, all bits and pieces, never gels into a dramatic whole and sometimes seems incongruous. At one point I half expected swans to turn up.
The production’s most dramatic feature is the dark blank walls, which are constantly being moved around by dancers and crew. The final image is of all Verona on their backs with their legs in the air. It’s surreal, it’s bizarre, it’s Ek. Who said the Swedes had no sense of humour?
Juliet and Romeo is part of the Northern Light Season at Sadler’s Wells, which runs until November 14.