Set 8S have been studying Romeo and Juliet in class, so when we found out that a version of the ballet was being screened in Hawkhurst, we had to go. Director Matthew Bourne brought his visionary mixture of modern dance and classical ballet to Prokofiev’s piece, and set it in modern times in a mental institute.

The plot was somewhat confusing, as nearly all we expect from Romeo and Juliet, such as two feuding parties, be they Montagues and Capulets or Jets and Sharks, was missing. Tybalt, a somewhat minor character in the play, was the resident evil of the Verona Institute, who bullies the inmates, especailly Juliet.  Romeo, the ineffectual son of a senator, is locked in the institute where men and women are strictly segregated. The rest is, more or less, Shakespeare’s play.

The dancing, both the large, minutely synchronized crowd scenes as well as the more intimate duets between the eponymous protagonists, was amazing for its poise and control as well as its breath-taking expressiveness.  In the final death scene more than one pair of eyes was in danger of welling up.

The pupils were somewhat taken aback by the setting and some felt Tybalt had been turned into a caricature of himself with no redeeming features.  However, all loved the dancing and the set with the inmates all wearing similar white clothes. They also enjoyed the somewhat gory end, with knife and stage blood.

Kornel Kossuth