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Matthew Bourne's Romeo & Juliet | Wycombe Swan

Matthew Bourne's adaptation of Romeo & Juliet is currently touring the UK with a month run at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre this summer, and I was invited to catch the show at the Wycombe Swan this week.


If you've seen any of Matthew Bourne's previous productions, you'll know that they aren't traditional ballets and he always puts his own, unique spin of the classic stories. This is exactly the same for this production, and I loved the fact that the classic Shakespeare story was brought up to date and dealt with more modern themes. This adaptation is set in the 'Verona Institute', and in an interview in the programme, Matthew said that it is intentionally vague as to what the Verona Institute is to allow the audience to make their own mind up and interpret the show in their own way.

This is quite a dark adaptation and features a lot of themes and topics that are still relevant today especially in young people (which the show is all about). These themes include mental health, knife crime, sexual and physical abuse and homophobic bullying. At times, I have to admit, the show is a very hard watch but this makes it an incredibly gripping and powerful performance and one that I couldn't take my eyes off.


The staging (Lez Brotherston) has been designed really well. In particular, the background brick wall was used effectively with a gate one side for 'boys' and another on the other side for 'girls'. There was also a prison-style fence all around the back and side of the stage, which again had gates that were used frequently throughout the show. Something that was used very well was lighting (designed by Paule Constable) - there are so many different lights used during the show, but none are used in your typical 'showbiz' way, and an are all used in the realistic ways they would be used. I loved the whole set and how realistic everything was, like I had just stepped into the Verona Institute - this made me even more engaged and made this thrilling adaptation even more powerful.

Although I'd never seen a ballet production of Romeo & Juliet before, I recongised a lot of the music from the classic Prokofiev ballet, which is used in this adaptation. Although using the same music, new orchestrations were created especially for this production by Terry Davies, taking it from the original full over 70-piece orchestra to music played by just 16 musicians. This takes away the orginal grandure of the original pieces of music, and makes it more gritty and this really works for this production, which is darker and more powerful than ever before. As well as the incredible music and orchestrations, the overall sound design by Paul Groothuis adds to the atmosphere with very well used sound effects which helps tell the story and add even more emotion to the production.


Romeo & Juliet plays at Wycombe Swan until the 22nd July and it will then continue its UK tour. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.


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AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Johan Person

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