Independent Ballet Wales is a small company from Newport, known for original and unpretentious productions and for bringing ballet into the community through workshops and summer dance projects

Independent Ballet Wales, The Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe 30/10/08: Independent Ballet Wales is a small company from Newport, known for original and unpretentious productions and for bringing ballet into the community through workshops and summer dance projects allowing dancers of all abilities to work with their professionals.

In their hands, the ballet of Romeo and Juliet has been stripped down to it's bare bones, focusing only on the main characters which allows a greater intimacy to develop with the audience and makes for an emotional re-telling of the classic romance. The set design and costumes are similarly unfussy and basic, most notably with the imaginative use of ladders re-used to represent furniture, balcony and altar in turn.

Artistic Director Darius James's choice of music announces that IBW's version is going to be different to the numerous other Romeo and Juliets seen touring the country. Instead of the usual Prokofiev score, James has opted for a dramatic symphony by Hector Berlioz, which incoporates parts for voices as well as the orchestra. I found the choral elements were a wonderful complement to the ballet, adding tension and emotion, most markedly in Lady Capulet's foreboding solo, danced with passion and woe by Lauren Poulton, with the sorrowful voices echoed in the choreography.

The young cast are mostly new to IBW and were full of energy, seeming to enjoy the performance. Oliver Eastwood as Tybalt in particular seemed to revel in the role of bad-guy and when he was on stage the eye was drawn to his confident dancing. Nice touches such as the humourous antics of the friar in his church provided moments of relief to offset the emotional tension which could have been overwhelming when the action revolved around such a small cast of characters.

Richard Read as Romeo and Iselin Eie Bowen as Juliet appeared awkward together at first, and made a couple of errors during the balcony scene pas de deux, but the pair had chemistry and the slight fumbling could almost be seen in this context as the inexperience and nervousness of young love. Later in the love scene, rumoured to be Berlioz's favourite of all his compositions, Read and Bowen's partnership came alive and the dancer's strengths were displayed to their full effect. Again, in the final act when Romeo danced with Juliet's lifeless body the partnership seemed more natural and the final movements were impassioned and full of grief, producing a tear-jerker of an ending.

There will be another chance to see IBW in North Devon when they return with Romeo and Juliet and their production of Dylan Thomas's play Under Milk Wood to the Plough (Torrington) in December.

Review by Laura Stewart