The Center Theater Group presented an energetic and emotionally engaging production of Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at the Ahmanson Theater. Bourne’s interpretation of this classic ballet cleverly communicates the tragic narrative with performances by his New Adventures company of impeccable dancers.
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet
The three Acts take place at the stark Verona Psychiatric Hospital. The curtain opens with two bloodied bodies on a mortuary slab, foreshadowing what we know to be the ending. The ensemble then stomps in regimented formation to Prokofiev’s haunting Dance of the Knights as we are introduced to Juliet. She is being taunted, roughly handled, and then carried off stage, with the intimation of rape, by a brutish guard. Throughout the performance, instead of warring families, it is the fight between vulnerable mental patients and an abusive system.
The anxious Romeo first appears in slacks, jacket, shirt, and tie, brought to the institution by his inattentive politician parents. Other patients adroitly strip him and put him into the depersonalizing white garb they all wear.
The ensemble shows their more individual selves dressed in 1950s-style clothes during a disco dance scene. Under the glittering light from a mirrored globe, Romeo and Juliet meet and become entranced.
Act 2 & 3 of Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet
In Act 2, the lovers joyfully and playfully participate in a pretend wedding ceremony, enjoying the honor and teasing they receive. Then panic ensues as the drunken guard Tybalt enters taunting the group with a gun as they gibe him back. The scene plays out with the death of Mercutio and the revenge taken on Tybalt. In Act 3, we see the patients sedated move slowly as Romeo, in a straitjacket, is led off stage. Though with the opportunity to be released to his parents, Romeo acts out to remain at the hospital. He and Juliet reunite through the grace of the compassionate reverend.
After a night of lovemaking, Juliet awakes to a vision of the guard and in a fit of psychosis precipitates their deaths. As the final curtain falls, the audience, without hesitation, stands to offer a rousing ovation. Monique Jonas captivates Juliet with her range of dynamically buoyant and morose expressiveness. Paris Fitzpatrick, who originated the role of Romeo in the 2019 production, brings forth a fragility and compassionate strength. In their duets, they embrace, tumble, and entwine with heartfelt hesitancy, passion, and tenderness.
Additional Performers & Crew
Featured as Tybalt was Adam Galbraith and Cameron Flynn as Mercutio. As noted in the program, the cast members play and also change roles at each performance. Set and Costume Designer, Lez Brotherston, created a bleak environment and structure that literally and metaphorically allowed the dancers to climb the walls.
Terry Davies orchestrated Sergei Prokofiev’s score, composed in 1935, to which the dancers hit each note with movement precision. Choreographer and Director Matthew Bourne developed New Adventures, a British dance theatre company, famous for telling stories with a unique theatrical twist.
Romeo and Juliet runs through February 25, 2024. Visit the website for more information, and to purchase tickets – https://www.centertheatregroup.org/
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