« Romeo & Juliet », April 1.
First I will save Baulac and Louvet for further down in the text. For I want to speak of Sébastien Bertaud now. From the moment he came out on stage – as Christophe Duquenne used to do – Bertaud gave his part that serious amplitude and natural charisma that can often go lacking when one is cast as only the Third Man. Here, clearly devoted to and used to picking up after his more immature bros and so pacifically at ease in the Verona nabe, Bertaud’s Benvolio clearly became the narrator of the evening’s events.
One of the coolest things Nureyev invented for his version of R&J turns out to be the Romeo backflips as repeatedly aborted by a Benvolio who has just told him their Juliet is dead. This wonderfully odd series of jumps — where both men should seem to be a breath away from both falling over together — only works when a dramatic, even electric, arc has been created between the two. Louvet/Romeo’s beautiful limbs fell trustingly all over the place. Bertaud/Benvolio, as he had defined the character, tried to rein him in just one more time. I’ve probably never seen a messier and more glorious and heart-breaking rendition of trust between male friends.
When will someone ever have the brains to cast this instinctive and incisive actor as Romeo? Bertaud can do anything, dance-wise, that his brethren do: he even didn’t let himself be intimidated by Emmanuel Thibault’s jazzy and opulent and soooo-still-in-his-dancing-prime Mercutio.
And I wasn’t focussing on Benvolio because the cast was lacking. Quite the contrary. Intensely holding back, Laurent Novis and Stéphanie Romberg shaped perhaps the most aristocratic pair of Lord and Lady Capulets—always dignified, used to playing by the rules, but fired just up unto the limits emotion can bear. They brought “this is not a question we are willing to discuss” to sad life. Then Yann Challioux squeezed every technical drop from the variation Nureyev gives Paris, but had set up its arrival through a consistently clear and elegant presence. Fanny Gorse, sexy and sharp to lines, made Rosalind come alive and stand out from the crowd.
Ah, so, yes, then the leads.
Germain Louvet’s Romeo? Utterly charming at play-acting. Long lines, beautifully arched arabesque, and beautiful feet (whose energy and natural pliancy needs to be pushed and polished just a little bit more). He seems generous with his dance and in his partnering. For now, he’s still a bit of the young thoroughbred who shall certainly become a champion stallion within a year or two.
This youthful energy worked well with Léonore Baulac’s unbridled Juliet. Her not girl/not woman proved greedy for life and love and not concerned at all with making pretty for us. Which made it all the prettier, for she made no point of breaking up the steps for show. Every combination unfolded easefully in a way that you just didn’t even think about “now this is a double assemblé.” She just danced, because steps are how you tell a story. Was she with the orchestra or was the orchestra under Simon Hewett’s baton keeping up with this ball of fire (ugly ploops from the winds, as usual, excepted)? Her Juliet was a girl in a great hurry. The balcony scene became very swift and direct, rather than soft. And I was won over by this impulsive approach, as by the way she seemed to aim her dance at and include those of us at the very top of the amphitheater. Think Kate Winslet arching her neck, on the prow of the Titanic, reaching out to grab at life.
“Ay, soon upon the stage of life,
Sweet, happy children, you will rise
To mingle in its care and strife,
Or early find the peaceful skies.
Then it be yours, while you pursue
The golden moments, quick to haste
Some noble work of love to do,
Nor suffer one bright hour to waste.”
Daniel Clement Colesworthy, 1876.