The National Ballet of Canada hasn’t come to the UK for 26 years. It therefore makes a very welcome return this week with Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells.
The ballet is new to this country, created by Alexei Ratmansky for the Canadian company in 2011, and it’s great to see a fresh Romeo and Juliet. But it’s impossible not to compare to the spectacular Kenneth MacMillan choreography that is performed regularly by the Royal Ballet.
In many ways, Ratmansky’s choreography is inferior. Much of the movement feels rushed and unfinished, as if too much has been crammed into each beat of music. The drama of the title characters is also only sporadically present. At times, their passion and anguish is tangible, for example when Romeo stands still, considering the difficulty of his fate, and Juliet runs and jumps on his back, gripping tight in a passionate and heartfelt embrace. At other moments, the choreography leaves the audience cold, despite charming and convincing performances by leads Guillaume Cote and Heather Ogden.
The male trio – Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio – have the best moments, such as comic and exaggerated creeping into the Capulets’ party. Piotr Stanczyk, as Mercutio, shines in particular, performing his role with clever and amusing attention to detail.
Designs by Richard Hudson are also mixed; fabrics and costumes have a colourful, vibrant feel and the enormous Act I feast is a pleasure to behold, but frequently the stage feels stark and under-dressed.
Ultimately, you can’t go far wrong with a ballet of Romeo and Juliet – the fabulous Prokofiev score and engaging story will always be crowd-pleasers. Ratmansky’s version will appeal to most audiences, but we suspect MacMillan fans will leave a little disappointed.
Romeo and Juliet is at Sadler’s Wells until 21 April. Tickets priced £12-45 are available from the Sadler’s Wells website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this show.
Photos: Bruce Zinger