“Cuthbertson and Bonelli are to die for… they spared no emotions.”
As the Royal Ballet continues to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet, Lauren Cuthbertson – currently the company’s only female British Principal – returned to the stage. Cuthbertson suffered a tragic injury at the beginning of the company’s 2014/15 season and was unable to perform in almost all of her scheduled roles. Luckily though, she has made a full recovery in time to tackle the role of Juliet – in my opinion, one of her strongest.
For her carefully mapped Juliet, Cuthbertson deserves an award. Her portrayal as a young, naive girl in Act I was impressive and, thankfully, MacMillan’s choreography gives her the space she needs to play with and differentiate her character from those of her fellow Juliets. Pore-raising was her matured Juliet in the final act and her outburst toward Paris (Valeri Hristov) gave me shivers.
Partnering Cuthbertson was Italian Principal Federico Bonelli. Unlike Steven McRae’s boyish Romeo, Bonelli opts for a more mature take, which serves him far better in the ballet’s final act than it did McRae. Although I don’t find Bonelli’s low arabesques and tight attitudes pleasing, he finds hints in Prokofiev’s screaming score and uses them to amplify not only his dancing, but his character as well.
As a couple, Cuthbertson and Bonelli are to die for. Their movements were in sync for each of MacMillan’s complex pas de deux and they spared no emotions. The final pas de deux – the crypt scene – was mesmerising, as Bonelli hauled Cuthbertson across the stage and collapsed, distraught.
First Soloist James Hay finally gave some character to Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio. The trio is completed by Ricardo Cervera’s Mercutio. Cervera had a shaky start to his variation – his movements were too small and his turns and jumps never quite hit the music, though he did recover well in the latter half.
Soloist Marcelino Sambé was also brilliant as the lead in the mandolin dance – displaying grand jumps that easily melted into multiple turns.
Cuthebertson and Bonelli perform together twice more on 9 and 17 October. The production will run until 2 December. For tickets and further details visit the website of the Royal Opera House.