Friday, April 09, 2021

'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare

9 April 2021

Regular readers will know that Simon Godwin is one of my favourite theatre directors (see, for example, my review of his National Theatre production of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ in December 2018). His latest show is an innovative take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’: when his planned National Theatre production of the play wasn’t able to go ahead because of the national lockdown he filmed the cast in the empty theatre to create a hybrid which is part-theatre and part-film. It starts with the feel of a first read-through on an empty stage but soon takes you into the world of the young Montagues and Capulets through close-ups, whispered voice-overs and dreamlike sequences. It also ruthlessly condenses  “the two hours' traffic of our stage” into a speedy 90 minutes, even sacrificing some of the most famous lines to keep the plot moving. It’s effective and engrossing. Like Erica Whyman’s great Royal Shakespeare Company production of the play (reviewed here in May 2018) a very young cast make both the star-crossed lovers and the gang warfare all too believable. Josh O'Connor and Jessie Buckley are a very convincing Romeo and Juliet and the production is incredibly passionate - in both the love and the violence. There is a strong supporting cast, including Adrian Lester, Tamsin Greig and Lucian Msamati. But the show belongs to the young lovers.

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