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ROMEO AND JULIET (article first published : 2000-10-17)

In the hands of the brave young Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, Shakespeare’s tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet and Prokofiev’s beautiful music come together in a production which deserves to be a big hit as it tours the country.

Touring is risky and expensive and few companies, even bigger and better-funded ones, are prepared to chance it these days but if there is any justice it will pay off for the FFFDC, both financially and in terms of kudos. From the moment that the rival Montague and Capulet gangs start eyeballing each other, you know this Romeo and Juliet is one of youth and urgency. These are real rowdies and there is an immediate aura of menace as the young men and women face up to each other. You know there’s trouble coming.

Director Robert Whitehead and choreographers Mark Hawkins and David Gouldie (who doubles as Lord Capulet) have mixed dance styles very successfully, from the classical romance of the leading roles to something more contemporary and funky for the street scenes, blending it all into a cohesive whole. And it is a treat to see a two-and-a-half hour ballet which forms a complete narrative – all too often now, ballet is served up in little chunks of this and that.

Sarah Roberts’ set is made to tour but manages to be sumptuous and highlight the costumes – a real triumph for Durban designers Colleen Eitzen and Amanda Laird-Cherry whose use of fabric and colour play up the blend of timeless romance and street-wise bravado.

In any Romeo and Juliet, the production will stand or fall by the leads and in the Pietermaritzburg performances, Mary-Ann de Wet and Robin van Wyk showed complete assurance. Both can act as well as dance and, while the exquisite de Wet moves gracefully from a young innocent to a woman of courage, van Wyk manages to bring conviction to Romeo’s speedy transfer of allegiance and growth of genuine passion – no easy task in these cynical times. They will alternate with Nicole McCreedy (Rosalind on opening night) and Anatole Babenko (a swaggering Tybalt) on tour.

The whole company deserve credit, with Cheryl Burger’s delightfully comic Nurse, Angela Lardant’s somewhat sinister Lady Capulet and Ebrahim Medell and Norbert Gertse’s Mercutio and Malvolio all particularly impressive.

The tour will end at the Playhouse in December and anyone who missed the three Pietermaritzburg shows can, and should, still catch it there. – Margaret von Klemperer




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