In original, with Italian subtitles.
This was the second of the Branagh Theatre Live shows, season 2015-2016.
The director Benjamin Caron chose the black&white for the cinema recording, maybe a peculiar choice for live theatre, but I fond it effective. This way, it was like seeing something that really happened in the past and it reminded me of the movie Roman Holiday, because it was staged like if they were living in Verona during the ’50s. It’s not for purists lovers of the traditional play, you have just to enjoy it as it is, if you get a chance to watch it.
I think that the director of the play, Kenneth Branagh, wanted to pay a homage to Italy, more than to Romeo and Juliet per se, and it looks like them all enjoyed to do so!
The version could be modern, but the story was mantained as it is. The last scene is particularly moving.
Despite the two actors who play the famous couple, Lily James and Richard Madden, don’t look like teenagers, they are the most nice Romeo and Juliet I’ve seen so far. To me, she was the one who gave the best performance, she was full of energy and shined on stage. While Madden tends to play all his roles like if he was a bit shy and introverted, not the way I imagine Romeo to be, but there was chemistry between the two actors.
Mercutio, my favourite character in the play, was played by Derek Jacobi, whose performance I liked, but it reminded me much of his Stuart in the TV series Vicious. We are used to see this role played by young actors, but apparently his age was never told in the writing, so Branagh dared to choose a more mature actor.
Meera Syal is an amusing nurse. It’s always a bit harder to value the performances of secondary characters in streaming of plays, because the camera usually focuses on the main actors, but Romeo and Juliet got a good colour/gender-blind casting, interesting considering that in the original story they are all Italian and two characters are male. But I use to prefer modern versions of Shakespeare’s plays.
The set design is solid, somehow oppressive, reproducing a square with marble walls and columns all around and a few steps connecting two levels. The balcony scene takes place on a marble balcony, but is not as high as in reality. The mausoleum’s design is even more oppressive, with the tomb of Juliet at the centre of the room and severe walls on three sides, with a low light inside.
I always thought that Romeo and Juliet is not a perfect story, it’s impossible watching it without asking “Why didn’t she follow him to a new life, when he was banished from Verona?” and also this production shows the inconsistencies of the storyline. And yet, it’s universal to represent troubled love.
Lily James – Juliet – she’s not on Twitter, she got some fan accounts
Richard Madden – Romeo – @
Derek Jacobi – Mercutio – he’s not on Twitter, but got this fan account @
Meera Syal – nurse – @
Marisa Berenson – Lady Capulet – not sure if she’s the real @
Tom Hanson – Paris – @
Jack Colgrave Hirst – Benvolio – he’s not on Twitter
Taylor James – Prince –
Ansu Kabia – Tybalt – he’s not on Twitter
Racheal Ofori – Sampson –
Nikki Patel – Balthasar – she’s not on Twitter
Chris Porter – Lord Montague – he’s not on Twitter
Zoe Rainey – Lady Montague –
Michael Rouse – Lord Capulet – he’s not on Twitter
Sam Valentine – Friar Laurence –
Kathryn Wilder – Peta / Apothecary –
Director: Kenneth Branagh – he’s not on Twitter
Director: Rob Ashford – he’s not on Twitter
Director (for Cinema): Benjamin Caron –
Original Music by Patrick Doyle – he’s not on Twitter
Set and Costume Designer: Christopher Oram – he’s not on Twitter
Lighting Design: Howard Hudson – @
Sound Design: Christopher Shutt – he’s not on Twitter
Venue: Branagh Theatre