As the then Artistic Director of English National Ballet, Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet became part of the ENB cannon back in 1998. Of course a lot of water has gone under the bridge since that time including the departure of Deane as Artistic Director but his ballet remains one of the best within the company’s repertoire.
Now Deane holds the reins to the annual summer residence at the Albert Hall with this and with his Swan Lake, both of which seem to do good business for the company whilst massively helping with their profile within the capital too as they jockey for position against some of the other big hitters.
With a raft of dancers drafted in from all over to join the company in an effort to fill the gargantuan space of the Albert Hall there is a clear attempt here to create spectacle and awe. The interesting thing is that it is when there are just a handful of dancers in the huge space that the piece really soars. Whilst Deane is clearly a master of organisation with crowd scenes that contain huge numbers you wonder if this is choreography or simply crowd control.
Every time the numbers on stage swell in the large scenes of towns folk and elegantly attired party goers we lose the action. The lovers taking their first gaze upon each other are totally lost within the dizzying crush of people ambling about. The fatal blow that ends the life of poor Mercutio is submerged beneath a swathe of meandering dancers all trying to look as though they belong there, but actually do nothing other than distract and obstruct.
When the crowds clear though the principles enchant and hold the audience with ease and tell the doomed love story with great clarity. The immense space with its immense audience enthralled by the passion and vigour with which the company dance.
Fernanda Oliveira is utterly captivating as Juliet. What she lacks in height she more than makes up for in expression and power as she hurtles around the stage whilst beguilingly managing great stillness at times of mounting emotion as well. Her Romeo and making his role debut is the young Junor Souza who dances with exuberance and energy but lacks the charisma and elegance needed. More gangly teenager than star crossed lover Souza makes a fine attempt but never quite hits the mark in this demanding role of roles.
Strong support is given by Yonah Acosta as a mischievous Mercutio and Fernando Bufala as a striking Tybalt. Under the leadership of Tom Seligman the orchestra of English National Ballet are simply magnificent and sound sensational within the exhilarating space of the Albert Hall.
This is a fine way to witness quality ballet within a glorious setting, but only if you are willing to forgive the crowds that sometimes make it feel like the opening of the Boxing Day sales!