Preserving the Passion: Northern Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet


Ahead of Northern Ballet’s revival of Romeo and Juliet, an exhibition at the University of Leeds brings together archival photos, drawings, costumes and props to tell the story of the hit production.

Northern Ballet’s hit production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ has survived fire, flood and the changing fashions of more than three decades.

Ahead of the ballet’s much-anticipated revival in March 2024, an exhibition at the University’s Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery brings together drawings, props, costumes and photographs from the company’s archive to tell the eventful story of the making of a classic.

Set to Prokofiev’s electrifying score, director Christopher Gable CBE and choreographer Massimo Moricone’s 1991 take on Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy became Northern Ballet’s greatest success. The Sunday Times hailed it as ‘Triumphant… swift-paced, full-blooded’, even ‘sexy’ – and rightly predicted it would be ‘a box office cert for years to come’. A slew of awards, an Olivier nomination and a Christmas Day screening on the BBC followed, and over the next 20 years it notched up more than 500 performances across the world.

But, as Shakespeare noted elsewhere, the course of true love never did run smooth. In 2001 arsonists destroyed Northern Ballet’s headquarters and much of its archive, including costumes from ‘Romeo & Juliet’, just three weeks before opening night. Then the catastrophic floods that struck Leeds on Boxing Day 2015 wrecked sets and costumes at the company’s stores. A recent public appeal has supported the recreation, repair and updating of Lez Brotherston OBE’s intricate period costumes and spectacular wooden set, ready for the long-awaited revival of the piece.

The Northern Ballet Archive, donated to the University of Leeds in 2021, tells the 50-year story of the company from its foundation to the present. This exhibition documents the production, the evolution and sometimes the complete recreation of a cornerstone of the repertoire – and celebrates the return of this beloved work to the stage in the company’s home city of Leeds.

Contact sheet showing several photos of William Walker and Jayne Regan Pink as Romeo and Juliet.

Image credit: Anthony Crickmay / Northern Ballet.

Federico Bonelli, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet, said: “Christopher Gable CBE and Massimo Morricone’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is a cherished gem in the world of dance and a cornerstone of Northern Ballet’s history. This exhibition captures the spirit and creativity that defines the Company and we are honoured that the University of Leeds has chosen to showcase this iconic production, a work that holds a special place in our hearts. As we prepare for its long-awaited revival this spring, the spotlight on Romeo & Juliet is a testament to the enduring impact of Shakespeare's tale.”

In parallel, Northern Ballet are also collaborating with the University of Leeds on pioneering project The Mechanics of Life: Movement, Mobility and Me, which brings University engineers from the School of Mechanical Engineering together with creative minds at the dance company. They have been working with youngsters from Batley Girls’ High School to co-design an engineering-inspired performance, choreographed and performed by Northern Ballet and filmed for a screening which will premiere in 2024.

Preserving the Passion: Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet’ can be seen in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in the University of Leeds’ Parkinson Building from 9 January - 23 March 2024.

Northern Ballet’s revival of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ opens at Leeds Grand Theatre from 8 -16 March 2024.

Further information

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The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery is open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday. Open to all, free admission, no booking necessary. Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. Telephone 0113 343 2778 or email