sun 04/12/2016

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, O2 Arena

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, O2 Arena

Superb performing, a clever staging, but audience behaviour is dismaying

Taking ballet to the masses: the Royal Ballet's corps de ballet on the roof of the O2© Matt Kent/ROH

The Royal Ballet says it is inviting a new audience to experience the thrill of live ballet by taking Romeo and Juliet to the gigantic O2. Beware what you wish for. It’s the thrill of the live audience I’m starting with before I get onto the splendid show. Sweet packets rustled behind my ear, fish and chips were wolfed nearby, pizza shared, drinks slurped. People were still entering in droves 30 minutes after the start, obstructing the view of Juliet’s first scene. People were late back for Act II, triumphantly bringing the beers and crisps in, better late than never.

Rojo, despite her small size, is a great actress of infinite craft, for whom vast spaces hold no fear

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I think you have to put crowd behaviour in the context of what is usually expected at predominantly music venues such as the O2. Rock and pop shows rarely start on time and it is completely acceptable to eat, drink and talk during them. One should also remember that sitting in hushed and respectful silence for music and dance performances is a mid to late 19th century concept used to separate respectable, middle class art from that of the hoi polloi, such as music hall. Earlier opera and ballet (and indeed theatre, groundings and all) would have been performed in the context of far more disruptive and noisy crowds, including of course in the pit at Covent Garden itself. I thoroughly enjoyed last night's performance, from the people clearly new to ballet exclaiming aloud in amazement at Polunin's leaps and turns, to the children trying out the moves around the hot dog stands between acts. These felt like far more genuine responses to the performance than those of the well informed but self-righteous "regulars" some of whom flounced off early tweeting about the "vile" O2. Perhaps these aficionados should confine themselves to the polite cloisters of the ROH and let the rest of us get on with enjoying ourselves and the ballet.

Yes, but in order to "enjoy the ballet", it pays not to be interrupted by hoards of people piling in and out at completely inappropriate moments (I was sitting on the end of a row and I lost count of the number of times my view was interrupted by yet another person heel-tapping away merrily on that glorious concrete). I'm not a snob. I love pop concerts, sports events and all the hot-dog munching and beer-slurping that goes with it. Light entertainment makes for light distractions, does it not? But who wants the final scene of R&J - that most heart-wrenching of moments - to be spoilt by unnecessary noise and clatter? Someone needs to have a word with O2 management. It shouldn't be rocket science to implement a few basic "concert-specific" rules for those rare special events. Next time, I'm off to a more intimate venue - where, with any luck, I will be able to see better and hear the music rather than my neighbours.

For a novice Ballet watcher, I thoroughly enjoyed the grace, spendour, skill and beauty of the ballet. Albeit the emotion and intimacy is lost in the O2, it was a treat that I probably would never have experienced. As previously mentioned a few ground rules on behaviour, if not for respect of the performers would have not gone a miss. I was horrified at the number of people leaving at as the performers were being applauded. An excellent idea but perhaps a smaller venue may have worked better.

"Perhaps these aficionados should confine themselves to the polite cloisters of the ROH and let the rest of us get on with enjoying ourselves and the ballet." Precisely, Lindsay!

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