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Well, no two wherefores about it in a fine romance

Romeo and Juliet

THE DANCE OF DEATH: Scottish Ballet's gripping Romeo and Juliet offers a modern twist: Picture: Mark Mainz
THE DANCE OF DEATH: Scottish Ballet's gripping Romeo and Juliet offers a modern twist: Picture: Mark Mainz

Romeo and Juliet

King's, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

It all ends in tears. Many of them surreptitiously wiped away by members of the audience, emotions genuinely ambushed because this Romeo and Juliet refuses to let us keep the tragedy at arm's length, distanced in some medieval tunics'n'tights pigeonhole.

And though the 20th century is, itself, a matter of history now, the context chosen by choreographer Krzysztof Pastor - Verona in the 1930s, 50s and 90s - is modern enough for us to recognise how social, political or religious schism continues to make enemies of neighbours, and victims of those who love across the divide.

Scottish Ballet's third staging of the work since 2008 fits surprisingly well into the confines of the King's where the claustrophobic feel of the crowd scenes - the colourfully dressed Montagues can't help but clash (in every sense) with the black-shirted Capulets - actually stokes a scenario rife with ancient rivalry.

The cleverly minimal set - time and place established by video footage on the back wall, mirrored walls dropping in and out - leaves most of the stage open for the Capulets to strut their Mussolini-militaristic stuff and for the Montague lads, Romeo and his mates Mercutio and Benvolio, to cut a light-hearted dash in their pale linen suits.

If Pastor's choreography ensures the narrative is clear, it's for the dancers to bring the characters alive and make us care about them.

The original Romeo and Juliet, Erik Cavallari and Sophie Martin, have gone from strength to strength in this. Technically they thrill and delight,as always, but there's an added command of characterisation that really does tug at the heart.

His whole body speaks of wonderment at her very existence, while she channels a harrowing degree of anguish as the reality of her situation bites into her soul.

Owen Thorne's Capulet has the towering arrogance of a patriarch capable of selling his daughter to the most useful ally, while Eve Mutso, as his regally self-contained wife, ensures we see her relive her own abused past in her daughter's future.

Christopher Harrison is the macho-bullish Tybalt to the gorgeously nimble, boyishly mischievous Mercutio of Victor Zarallo in a production memorably energised by individual brilliance alongside ensemble crispness, swagger and dramatic focus.

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