Sunday, September 24

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet – Lowry, Salford

“These violent delights have violent ends.” – Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 6.

The delights of this ballet are not just violent, but they are plentiful and multifarious. How much did I love this show? Let me count the ways. On display tonight was artistry of the highest order. It was superb, sublime and even, perhaps, a tad spiritual.

Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy is the ultimate play about love and death. His star-crossed lovers pay a fatal price for their desire. Sir Matthew Bourne, the director and choreographer, has created an adaptation of this drama that is at turns both intriguing and compelling. He takes it in a different direction but keeps the basic narrative intact.

He uses Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet score but pares it down so it isn’t so bombastic and overwhelming. It was recreated by Terry Davies with an orchestra of just 15 players which makes the music more romantic and sensual, fitting in perfectly with Matthew’s vision for the piece. The Dance of the Knights, which everyone will recognise, recurs in different ways throughout.

The ballet is set in some sort of correctional facility. The Verona Institute could be a prison, a borstal or a young offenders’ establishment. It is a regimented environment and some of the officers are keen to take advantage of the power they have over their prisoners.

Romeo is brought in by his rich parents who want, for whatever reason, for him to be put in this place. Juliet is already there and, of course they meet and fall in love. This leads to what I believe is one of the greatest depictions of first love I have ever seen on any stage, in any art form.

Paris Fitzpatrick, as Romeo and Cordelia Braithwaite, as Juliet, portrayed the primal and visceral nature of those first-love feelings and coupled it with a gentleness, warmth and benevolence that was deeply moving and touching. Their longing for each other in this wonderful set-piece had a fervour and a sensuality which was beautiful to behold.

Cordelia coupled grace and power in a cultivated performance as Juliet. This was, in all senses, a blood and guts display of dance. She was captivating and like every artist at the top of their game she made extremely complicated moves look ridiculously easy.

Romeo, as played by Paris, was a sensitive soul driven to distraction by his love for Juliet and by the vicissitudes of fate. He was ardent, romantic and passionate. There was an exquisite flow and timing to all his movements even at those moments when he was at his most agitated.

The rest of the cast were wonderful, and this was in many ways an ensemble piece. There were lovely little comic moments interspersed into the drama. It also touched on some important issues such as bigotry, homophobia, knife crime and mental health. They were brought in with a light touch and were all part of the drama and did not get in the way of the narrative.

I don’t think I am giving too much away by saying the play ends violently and it left me feeling heartbroken but also joyous that I had watched an extremely special work of art.

It is on at the Lowry until Saturday 15th July, click here for more information – It then continues to tour around the country, for more, go to –

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 12th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.