THEATRE REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet starring Freddie Fox, Lily James, Sir Derek Jacobi & Meera Syal


WHERE: Garrick Theatre

WHEN: 23/7 runs to 13/8

It’s the news every partner of a theatre lover dreads: the tickets you bought eight months earlier to celebrate a birthday are no longer valid. And you find out that birthday morning. By email.

  • Read on to find out what happened when Romeos Richard Madden and Tom Hanson bowed out

We receive the email on the morning of our planned visit and it reads: ‘Unfortunately the injuries that both actors have recently, independently, sustained mean that on doctors orders they are both unable to perform and as I’m sure the you will understand, the safety and wellbeing of the cast has to be our first concern. On this basis the producers have decided to cancel this evening’s performance.’

Normally the use of the word ‘independently’ would spark a smile but we’re too disappointed for that.

It continues: ‘Cancelled performances are extremely rare, but as I am sure you will appreciate events can very occasionally conspire against us to make a performance impossible.’

We’re offered tickets for that evening (23/7) to Hobson’s Choice at the Vaudeville starring Martin Shaw and The Go-Between starring Michael Crawford at the Apollo, neither of which we’re desperate to see. We’re also told that in two days we can contact Nimax for a refund or to rearrange our tickets.

Denying customers the chance to speak to someone immediately seems to be a PR fail but on 25/7 we rearrange our tickets for the penultimate show (we weren’t able to get equivalent tickets for the last night) and later we find Freddie Fox (who we last saw not wearing a great deal opposite Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss at the Duke Of York’s) is to replace Madden (Game Of Thrones) until the end of the run.

So what was Fox like and how were we treated after the birthday no-show?

Fox is almost the best thing about this production. Sir Derek Jacobi’s Mercutio and Meera Syal’s Nurse are in Olivier Award-winning form, it’s just a shame that Branagh chose to go date rape disco with the plot and that the set pieces are at best 80s Pet Shop Boys videos.

Lily James, so captivating earlier this year in the BBC’s War and Peace, makes for a curious Juliet, seemingly reading from teleprompter throughout the entire production. There’s little chemistry with Fox (who’s absolutely giving it a go) but that was very much the criticism of her earlier work with Madden.

We weren’t big fans of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale but it was a fine start to Branagh’s Garrick season. Things have dipped severely since then. We’ve high hopes for our trip to The Entertainer in November.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Tickets here.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham


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