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Review | Matthew Bourne's Romeo + Juliet | The Lowry | 12/07/2023

Making theatre more accessible is a long-fought battle that still continues. As usual Matthew Bourne takes this challenge with both hands, presenting the often-elitist genre of ballet an experience with mass appeal. With theatres across the country littered with reimagined Shakespeare, it doesn’t always hit the mark. However, Bourne’s inspired restaging of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy completely knocks it out of the park. Having premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2019, it is now touring the country ahead of a major international tour in 2024.

As with any New/Adventures production, the story is given a twist. We find ourselves not exactly in Verona, but in the Verona Asylum. It is part prison, part school, part… whatever you want it to be! In this respect, it is purposely vague. Lez Brotherston transports us there effortlessly with his understated simplistic set. The simple off-white metro tiled asylum walls with a prison-like platform above is beautifully minimalist, allowing the incredible dancing talent to take centre stage. Framed by an imposing metal cage, the scene is set.

Whilst it was first used in the much more traditional 1938 ballet, Bourne’s production breathed new life into Sergei Prokofiev’s iconic score. From the very first note, the music is sublime, orchestrated by Terry Davies.

This tale is suitably dark, which is to its credit. Each ‘patient’ is dressed in white, almost a uniform for the Verona Asylum, as they march out one-by-one to collect their pills from the nurses. Each group number is completely mesmerizing, pulling the audience in and keeping them there as the time flew. The cast are absolutely astonishing and a joy to watch.

With a rotating cast, we were treated to Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo and Cordelia Braithwaite as Juliet. They first meet at a party within the institute with their sensual dance breathing more passion in the roles than in any previous version of this classic story I’ve seen before. The chemistry between Fitzpatrick and Braithwaite is absolute gold.

It would be criminal to not mention Paule Constable’s commanding lighting design. In this, her sixth production for New Adventures she delivers, creating a moody and at times sexy atmosphere with shades of light and dark juxtaposed throughout.

It handles queer representation without ever feeling forced. With a more androgenous character seamlessly shifting between the male and female ensembles and queer stories beautifully told through dance, it is refreshing and beautiful to see.

Through New Adventures, Matthew Bourne once again proves why he is the master of contemporary ballet. 'Romeo + Juliet' is on at The Lowry until Saturday 15 July 2023, see below for booking information:

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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