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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (UK Tour, Glasgow)

Updated: Jan 28

27 September 2023

King's Theatre, Glasgow


Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, UK Tour, The King's Theatre, Glasgow, September 2023). Photo by Lisa in the theatre

I have long been a fan of Matthew Bourne's work, and this new production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by his New Adventures company shoots straight to the top of my list as one of his best. Thoroughly modern and beautifully Bourne-ified, this Romeo and Juliet is fresh, exciting and bloody.

In the near future, a group of young people are incarcerated in The Verona Institute. Why?, we do not know. But they are confined, confused and angry.

The set by Lez Brotherston establishes the scene perfectly. High wire fences, security lights and pristine cream tiles curve around the stage and frame the central action. It's entirely institutional and very imposing. It even provides the famous 'balcony' in the form of a raised walkway. Genius! It's a bold choice to fill the stage with such a large set piece, but it works perfectly to provide various levels and depths for the dancers to perform on.

Juliet, danced exquisitely by Monique Jonas, is so light on her feet she barely touches the metal stairs as she runs up them. The rest of the cast make great use of the walls, railings and every inch of the floor space. As is to be expected from New Adventures, it's all expertly choreographed and impeccably performed.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, UK Tour). Photo credit: Johan Persson

The lighting by Paule Constable is stunning. Powerful spotlights, flashlights and even a disco ball are used sparingly throughout the production to add interest and a startling touch of realism. Every dancer is perfectly lit and the set shines in all it's glory.

The disco ball is lowered on stage via what can only be described as a glorious UFO light fitting. It's massive and looks so heavy! But when on stage, it forms a spectacular centre piece above the dancers, adding to the otherworldly, dreamlike-feeling of the party scene and others. It's unique and spectacular. Thank you for bringing this wonderful set piece on tour; it can't be easy to move around nor install.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, UK Tour). Photo credit: Johan Persson

Among the visual splendours, the traditional story of Romeo and Juliet is here, but has been slightly altered and dare I say it, improved, to fit the new setting of the story. As with all of Bourne's work, serious themes have been introduced and the result is a very less sanitised version of forbidden love and youth. Abuse, homophobia, knife crime and more topical issues are played out and should surely resonate with anyone familiar with the world we inhabit today.

The dancers themselves are all remarkable. Rory Macleod as Romeo, and Monique Jonas as Juliet are both impeccable and devasting. First-rate, believable, young leads who not only have to dance and act, but deal with all the other curve balls Bourne throws at them. This production contains the longest ever continuous kiss in dance history. Bourne didn't want just a tender peck on the cheek for this Romeo and Juliet! Rather when the awkward couple do lock lips, they are there for a while, and the choreography of it is simply phenomenal.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, UK Tour). Photo credit: Johan Persson

Danny Reubens has long been one of my favourite New Adventures dancers, and again here he shines as the scene-stealing Tybalt. Ben Brown (Mercutio), Euan Garrett (Benvolio) and newcomer Leonardo McCorkindale (Balthasar) likewise make impressions in a sea of world-class performers.

One of the most powerful aspects of the whole production is the instantly recognisable Prokofiev score. The new arrangement by Terry Davies loses none of the brilliance of the original masterpiece and forms a brilliant backdrop for the compelling, urgent dance. It's a dramatic and memorable soundtrack.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet is the whole package. It's a superb retelling of Shakespeare's masterpiece on stage, accompanied by sensational music, storytelling and performances. The direction, the choreography, set, music and lighting are all outstanding. Surely this is a new classic of modern dance theatre. Perfection.



Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet plays at The King's Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 30th September and then continues to tour across the UK including His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen from 31 October - 4 November 2023.

🎟️ Glasgow tickets available from £13

➡️ More information and full tour dates:

📸 Production photography: Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, Cast, UK Tour). Photo credit: Johan Persson

🌟 REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures, UK Tour, The King's Theatre, Glasgow)🌟

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.

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Lisa in the theatre. Theatre reviewer. Theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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