A Review of Romeo & Julien

Romeo and Julien

1pm, Sunday 16th October 2016

Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton

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Photo credit belongs to the cast of Romeo & Julien

My other half, Ben, has had limited exposure to the words of Shakespeare and the medium of contemporary dance. Although, this lack of exposure is not through his distaste of both forms I have taken it upon myself, as a lover of both, to educate him. Thus, when the opportunity to see a contemporary dance, live music and spoken word rendition of Romeo and Juliet appeared I jumped at the chance to introduce Ben to it.

Aside from the fact I knew to some extent what to expect – due to having close relationships with the dancers and knew two of the musicians from my time at Northern School of Contemporary Dance – what unfolded in the twenty minute piece had both Ben and I gripped and overcome with enjoyment. By juxtaposing the serene French Capulets with the fiery Spanish Montagues the audience is invited to witness the tangled love story of Verona’s “star-crossed lovers”.  We sit, like the two feuding families against each other, peering into the performance space where the four dancers and four musicians take us on a journey of love, despair and as the play dictates woeful death.

I should probably also mention that I have seen Romeo and Juliet performed at The Globe by The Royal Shakespeare Company. In comparison to Romeo and Julien, however, I believe the RSC fail to touch so successfully on the emotive horror of the two young lovers. At times funny, heart racing and tender Anna Bosch who played Romeo and Paul Guenot who played Julien wrapped the audience up in their love story and it was wonderful. I have never seen such a succinct way of delivering Shakespeare- the choice of text, accompanied by four talented musicians and a movement vocabulary that left me hungry for so much more. I believe the strength lay in the fast progression of the story line and contrast between each scene. The company managed to include all the vital elements of the tale, without allowing us to muse too much. We were picked up and carried along, before we had time to realise that we were watching Shakespeare, and consequently left us almost breathless come the end.

And how did my initially reluctant other half respond to this heart wrenching Shakespearean drama? Well, this form of cross-arts collaboration has piqued his interest, and his usual complaint that he failed to understand the essence of the work was non-existent. I’d even dare to say that his normal fear of contemporary dance has subsided a little, for the suggestion of a techno Macbeth didn’t leave him quaking in fear instead prompted him to nickname it ‘Techbeth’. Therefore, despite the fact that I as a seasoned contemporary dance viewer loved Romeo and Julien, and would happily watch it a thousand more times, the fact that my other half- a non-dancer and so-called ‘normal person’ loved it, speaks volumes of the power of the piece. He even recommended it to some mates… so there you go!

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