Dance Review: Romeo & Juliet - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ✭✭✭✭✭

Review by Graeme Shield

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s production of Romeo & Juliet receives a reinvigoration courtesy of Northern Ballet, but is it a match made in heaven, or will it result in a plague a’ both their houses?

This classic love story, for those of you have been living under a rock, follows the romance of two young lovers from feuding families who are forced to keep their love secret. As is the case with Shakespearean tragedies, it doesn’t end well.

Maillot’s exuberant choreography has a dash of the contemporary about it, with simple human gestures relating raw human emotions perfectly.  Evoking stunning imagery from the incredibly powerful score by Sergei Prokofiev, his cast of dancers thrills and excites with each move.

Costume Designer Jérôme Kaplan finds fine fabrics and textured textiles that effortlessly glide and swoop in the air as elegantly as the dancers wearing them, while presenting an intriguing mix of modern/period chic costumes. In addition to the beautifully minimalist set design by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Maillot and his team have crafted a production that you can really lose yourself in.

I’m also pleased by just how much humour there is - from the ‘laddish’ behaviour of Mercutio and Benvolio to the quirky and fantastic exchange between Juliet and her Nurse (a delightfully funny Antionette Brooks-Daw).

It is Guiliano Contadini and Martha Leebolt, however, who steal the show as the star-crossed lovers. Romeo is perfectly pitched, while Juliet is both fragile and headstrong. Satisfyingly, later on we see a power & dynamic change after Tybalt’s death in which we really see Contadini & Leebolt  effectively showing their characters deepened love and understanding of one another.

I should say that my one and only previous experience with a ballet production (it wasn’t Northern Ballet) moved me to inexplicable levels of boredom, so it was with a great deal of arm-twisting that I trooped over to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre to see Romeo & Juliet.

I needn’t have worried. Northern Ballet’s exquisite take on Shakespeare’s classic is anything but a tragedy. It provides the punch and panache of the source material, with oodles of style to spare, to make a truly accessible theatrical experience created by a brilliant team clearly working at the top of their game. Get your tickets and fall in love with the Northern Ballet, before it’s too late.

Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet is at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh until 28th February. For tickets, head to or phone the Festival Theatre Box Office on 0131 529 6000.