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A riveting twist on a timeless classic – Reviewing Matthew Bourne’s Romeo & Juliet at Hull New Theatre



Having been a fan of Matthew Bourne’s innovative choreography for years, I was eagerly anticipating his take on the iconic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet and I can tell you, I was not disappointed!

Bourne’s reimagination of this Shakespearean classic breathes new life into a tale that has been told countless times.

In addition to the ground-breaking casting, Bourne’s choreography is nothing short of a masterpiece. With his signature blend of contemporary dance and storytelling, Bourne creates a dynamic and emotionally charged experience for the audience.

The dance sequences range from passionate and tender duets to intense and thrilling fight scenes, all of which are flawlessly executed by the talented cast to the wonderful music of Prokoviev. Most listeners will have heard the main piece which is majestic and brilliant, making you want to move to the phrases of the music.

One of the standout features of this production is the stunning set and costume design. The sets transport the audience to the Verona Institute for the mentally ill. Most of these institutions have closed in this modern age and Bourne’s powerful portrayal of the abuse of Juliet (Monique Jonas) and the female patients is heart-wrenching. The costumes perfectly reflect the characters’ personalities and were simple in varying outfits all in white, normally reflecting innocence but not at this institution.

The stage was set with a bleak, subway-tiled semi-circle with barred entrances to the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ areas. Bourne masterfully uses lighting and projections to set the mood and enhance key moments, creating a visually captivating experience that complements the storytelling.

At one point, the priest (Daisy May Kemp) prays as a large circular, almost alien ship descends, it drops out a glitterball and reflections of light envelop the auditorium. It is under this glitterball that the patients meet and dance together and our two lovers Romeo (Paris Fitzpatrick) and Juliet meet.

We also meet Tybalt (Sam Archer) who was excellent as a menacing figure who haunts Juliet.

Beyond the captivating visuals, Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet delves into the complexities of love and prejudice. There are no family complexities in this production other than loyalties between the patient groups and friendships. The emotional impact is profound, leaving the audience contemplating the power and consequences of love and hate.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is a triumph of modern dance theatre. It is an evocative, visually stunning, and emotionally charged production that showcases Bourne’s brilliance as a choreographer and storyteller. If you’re looking for a fresh take on a timeless classic, this performance should not be missed.

Bourne’s visionary approach and the outstanding performances by the cast will leave you both mesmerized and moved long after the final curtain call.

This runs at Hull New Theatre until this Saturday (29th July) and is not to be missed. It is NOT suitable for younger children due to the issues explored.

Finally, there is a link with Hull in that dancer Bryony Pennington is an alumni of LWHS dance school and Neil Westmoreland (Resident Artistic Associate) is an alumni of Skelton Hooper school. The city has a great history of providing fabulous dancers to various dance companies around the world and it is wonderful to see this tradition continue.

Oh, and I used to teach Neil when he was a young dancer!

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