Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet Reviews ★★★★

A reviews round-up for Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells in London.

The show stars Cordelia Braithwaite and Monique Jonas as Juliet, and Paris Fitzpatrick and Andrew Monaghan as Romeo.

Other cast include Danny Reubens and Richard Winsor as Tybalt, and Tanisha Addicott, Matthew Amos, Carla Contini, Tasha Chu, Adam Davies, Gabrielle de Souza, Jackson Fisch, Anya Ferdinand, Cameron Flynn, Euan Garrett, Kurumi Kamayachi, Hannah Kremer, Rory Macleod, Blue Makwana, Leonardo McCorkindale, Eleanor McGrath, Enrique Ngbokota, Bryony Pennington and Harry Ondrak Wright.

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet - Sadler's Wells. Photo by Johan Persson
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet – Sadler’s Wells. Photo by Johan Persson

New Adventures senior artists, Daisy May Kemp and Alan Vincent also feature in the production as well as serving as Resident Directors for the tour.

The ballet is directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, with Etta Murfitt as Associate Artistic Director, Lez Brotherston – Set and Costume design, Paule Constable – Lighting Design, Paul Groothuis – Sound Design and Arielle Smith – Associate Choreographer, with Terry Davies’ orchestrations of Prokofiev’s dynamic score.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet gives Shakespeare’s timeless story of forbidden love a scintillating injection of raw passion and youthful vitality, in this masterful re-telling of the timeless tale of teenage discovery and the madness of first love.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet first premiered 2019, and is now back in London, running for five-weeks at Sadler’s Wells to 2 September 2023.

Read reviews from the Telegraph, Independent, Evening Standard and more, with further reviews to be added.

Tickets for Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Sadler’s Wells

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet reviews

The Observer

"More compelling than ever"

"Set in an asylum, the choreographer’s bleak yet passionate adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic romance triumphs in a newly honed revival"

"The choreographer Matthew Bourne tends to be seen as a family favourite – someone who makes works that everyone can enjoy. That’s true, but what gets missed in that judgment is just how good he is at putting passion – suppressed and expressed – on stage. His Romeo + Juliet, returning four years after its premiere, is a case in point."

"Since the piece first appeared in 2019, Bourne has worked – as he always does – on refining and adding clarity. The ending is still shocking, but now more directly seems to spring from Juliet’s trauma. Returning to the role she created, Cordelia Braithwaite finds new strains of suffering; her Juliet is tragic precisely because her strength and courage have been distorted by the life imposed upon her. Paris Fitzpatrick’s goofy, charming Romeo is the perfect foil."

Sarah Crompton, The Observer
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The Telegraph

"Dance drama at its most fiercely compelling"

"This modern reinterpretation is Shakespeare as psychological horror – and the result is electrifying"

"This is Shakespeare as psychological horror. Gone are the feuding families; instead, the conflict is generational. The villainous adults run a grim psychiatric hospital-cum-borstal, the Verona Institute, where they medicate and terrorise their young charges into forced submission (it’s a sort of junior One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)."

"On opening night, I saw the excellent Cordelia Braithwaite and Paris Fitzpatrick return to the lead roles that they created. Their connection is both sweetly hesitant and instantly binding. Such is its gravitational force that it sucks in everyone around them: their fellow inmates eagerly press them for details, à la Grease’s Summer Nights, and, when tragedy strikes, they suffer a mass mental health crisis. Bourne also stages genuinely frightening violence, including the kids becoming a mob of avenging Furies."

"Terry Davies’s cut and reconfigured version of Prokofiev’s score lends jagged intensity to the action"

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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The Evening Standard

"A night of dance to give you goosebumps"

"This thrilling revival boasts a terrific, detailed ensemble and some gorgeous choreography"

"Matthew Bourne’s stark 2019 dance version is set in a harsh correctional facility called the Verona Institute, where young people get the hope squeezed out of them. It’s a horribly effective frame for the old story."

"Prokofiev’s heartsick score, played live with tremendous verve, here kicks off with the bloodcurdling Dance of the Knights (there’s a reason it’s The Apprentice’s foreboding theme tune)."

"A terrific, detailed ensemble includes Daisy May Kemp’s earnest pastor and an incandescent Ben Brown, leading a trio of cheeky boys who befriend Romeo. The urgent first half is one of Bourne’s best sweeps of dance-drama. The kids register jolts of impotent anger, tiny fractures of dissent (even if only a shared look or sarcastic stomp) and little nicks of individuality."

"The second half barrels downhill to tragedy – but leans so hard on this trajectory that it flattens out the story. The medicated inmates lose their individuality, melodrama douses the lovers’ pained realism. Even so, Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet harnesses youthful ardour in a goosebumping night of dance."

David Jays, The Evening Standard
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The Independent

"A spiky and youthful Shakespeare reimagining"

"Dance adaptation of the classic tragedy is staged at Sadler’s Wells in London"

"Already an inmate, Juliet is being abused by prison guard Tybalt. Bourne uses this plotline to reshape the tragedy, so that Juliet’s trauma becomes self-destructive. It’s a powerful final twist, but comes at the expense of flattening her early characterisation. Though Cordelia Braithwaite is an ardent Juliet, she’s framed as a victim from the start. Braithwaite takes flight when she and Romeo meet."

"Throughout, Bourne uses larger groups to amplify his characters’ emotions. The young cast surge through regimented numbers, finding rebellion in the way they lick an envelope or move a chair. When they break out of the routines, there’s a seething collective force to the dancing, all hormones and fury."

"Conducted by Daniel Parkinson, Terry Davies’ spiky arrangement of the Prokofiev score underlines its bite. It’s a production that emphasises youthful energy, then sets it bouncing off prison walls."

Zoe Anderson, The Independent
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The Times

"Matthew Bourne’s brutal take chills the heart"

"The time? The not-too-distant future. The place? The Verona Institute, where young people are incarcerated against their will. Is it a hospital, a borstal, a school? In his intense and fervent 2019 rewrite of Shakespeare’s play Matthew Bourne deliberately keeps it vague."

"... Bourne gives us a raw contemporary tragedy of doomed love set against the bigger societal picture of innocent youth versus a nasty and hostile adult authority."

"Bourne’s choreography contrasts the initial joy of the lovers’ encounters — charmingly awkward and playful, filled with kisses — with the deadening frustration of the inmates, who move with a blunt and regimented angularity, occasionally morphing into chaotic aggression or zombie-like submission. Not surprisingly, those famous touches of Bourne humour are few and far between."

"Leading the first cast, Paris Fitzpatrick danced with heaps of heart as Romeo, so tender and true. Cordelia Braithwaite’s fleet-footed Juliet was no shrinking violet but a dramatic force of nature, especially in her guilt-ridden mad scene, with disastrous consequences."

Debra Craine, The Times
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The Stage

"Well-showcased choreographic inventiveness"

"Bourne’s uncomfortable reimagining plays fast and loose with Shakespeare’s plot"

"Bourne’s choreographic inventiveness is well showcased, and at times delightful – Romeo and Juliet’s morning-after grilling from their dorm-mates is an ingeniously resolved jigsaw puzzle of two scenes and one set. His cast, including plenty of new young recruits, fizzes with energy. Braithwaite is a captivating dancer; the trio of Ben Brown as Mercutio, Jackson Fisch as Balthasar and Euan Garrett as Benvolio have a boisterous, muscular presence; Daisy May Kemp gives us a sweetly ditsy vicar."

"But there’s something unsettling about the way the production uses mental health and abuse issues. Four years on from its premiere, this doesn’t feel like an attempt to tackle hard-hitting subjects; instead, at times, it skirts close to exploitation, as Bourne nods to distressing topics while lobbing in visual gags and piling towards his blood-soaked ending. Depictions of grief and trauma come across as mere choreographic tricks, with no depth."

Siobhan Murphy, The Stage
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📷 Main photo: Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Johan Persson

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