San Francisco Ballet “Romeo & Juliet” Encore screening at The Festival Theatre is a great example of why we need encore and live streamed cinema events built into the programme here as this technology gives us all the chance to at least experience performances that are unlikely to ever tour in Scotland let alone Edinburgh, and even on the off chance that they ever did, the chances of them bringing the full set and production with them would be limited. The Festival Theatre has the largest digital technology screening system in Scotland, so watching an event like this on screen is as close as we will probably get here.
Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson and starring Maria Kochetkova (Juliet), Davit Karapetyan (Romeo), Pascal Molat (Mercutio), Joseph Walsh (Benvolio) and Luke Ingham (Tybalt), this is a huge production with stunning sets and costumes. The costumes (with the exception of the principal dancers) are the original ones from the 1994 premiere of this production and lovingly brought back into life for this new production.
For this ballet of this forbidden love story that comes out of the long feud between the warring Capulet and Montague families, Helgi Tomasson decided that the celebrated score by Sergei Prokofiev suited the story he wanted to tell here best. This ballet firmly has its roots in the original story by Shakespeare, but in a “behind the scenes” interview on film, he also credits a swashbuckling earlier film version of the story as being an influence too, and the swordfights in this production took a lot of rehearsal time to get both realistic for an audience and safe for the performers.
Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan are a great Romeo and Juliet here, and Maria at times just seems very fragile in Davit’s arms while at the same time being a great expressive actress when required. At times you can see just what a great silent movie actress Maria would have made. As with all great principal female dancers, Maria seems also to have that ability to become almost weightless when she dances. Sometimes in productions of this ballet, there can be great technical skill displayed on stage as Romeo and Juliet dance but little emotion between them...not so here, the parts have been very well cast.
Luke Ingham as Tybalt also gets some scope to play his character full of the pride and arrogance that you would expect.
This encore production is really a Romeo and Juliet production re-imagined with a very cinematographic eye and the colour on screen is processed giving that look of a vintage 1950s swash-buckling romance film. Classic ballet, but also a very theatrical production with at times a lot of darkness and shadows to the sets that reminded me of many paintings of this 17th century period that everything is set in.
A nice little touch too is the on screen quotes from the original Shakespeare source as we are introduced to the different scenes.
Interesting too was a short on-screen interview with Maria Kochetkova and her reluctance to discuss her version of Juliet, preferring to keep her thoughts on the character private and let an audience make their own minds up from her on stage performance.
Review by Tom King