Northern Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet


Was I hearing things as I approached Sadler’s Wells last night? Surely that was The Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev’s sublime Romeo and Juliet? Was it some strange PR exercise to lure passers-by into the theatre? Well, no. It turned out to be the Northern Ballet Sinfonia demonstrating about their lack of funding.

Things are, in fact, so bad that this tour of Northern Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet will not have musicians at all from September – they’ll be replaced with taped music. So, let me start by saying that not only does all ballet need live music as its life blood, the Sinfonia proved the point by playing with passion and precision the entire evening.

Harry Skoupas and Joseph Taylor in Romeo and Juliet

As did the dancers. They are already halfway through their tour – it started in Leeds back in March and, after their short stay at Sadler’s Wells, they’ll pick it up again in September – but they’re fresh as daisies. One of the striking things about this company is their exuberance and whole heartedness and this goes as much for their acting as their dancing. Perhaps the most striking example of this was Aaron Kok as Mercutio whose extraordinary technique is matched by his characterisation, flipping with ease from joker to fighter (Jonathan Howell’s fight direction was pretty convincing, too).

Mercutio does have some dazzling choreography in this version of the ballet that was devised originally by Christopher Gable with choreographer Massimo Moricone. It is not, in fact, seen as often as Macmillan’s or Ashton’s versions and there are many others including a rather disastrous one by Nureyev.

Dominique Larose and Heather Lehan in Romeo and Juliet

This one makes it very much Juliet’s story and with Dominique Larose in the role, this is a joy. A playful child in the opening scenes, she develops into a young woman capable not just of profound love but profound horror when faced with her parents’ plans to marry her off when she is, of course, already secretly married to Romeo.

Joseph Taylor is her strong and supportive Romeo and her Nurse, played by Heather Lehan is quite the comic show stealer. The scenes that involve the whole company – from fights in the market place to the unusually dark Dance of the Knights – are full of detail and there isn’t a single dancer here who isn’t on top form. The night, though, belongs to Larose’s beautifully sensitive portrayal of Juliet and that most mercurial of Mercutios, Aaron Kok.

Romeo and Juliet runs at Sadler’s Wells until 1 June. Prices start from £15. For more information, and for tickets, please visit

 Photos by Tristram Kenton. Header photo by Emily Nuttall.