FILM REVIEW: Romeo & Juliet starring Josh O’Connor & Jessie Buckley

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHEN?: 9pm Sunday 4 April 2021

WHERE?: Sky Arts

RUNTIME: 90 minutes

When the National Theatre announced that Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley were set to star in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the venue in summer 2020, it was set to be 1 of the season’s highlights.

  • Read on for reasons including how a gay couple played by Fisayo Akinade and Shubham Saraf are crucial to the tragedy

Covid-19 lay waste to those plans but the decision to film a version at the venue during 17 days in December is a welcome one because it salvages something from those hotly-anticipated plans.

This filmed version is not a straight play although it opens with Lucian Msamati’s (Talking Heads, Bridge Theatre) scene setting about the rival houses of Montague and Capulet in ‘fair Verona’.

The cast is in modern day clothing and on a stage as if in rehearsal. We meet Buckley’s (The Winter’s Tale, Garrick Theatre) spirited Juliet as she is instructed who to marry but falls instead for O’Connor’s (a Golden Globe-winning Prince Charles in The Crown) straightforward, heroic Romeo who is captivated by her singing during a well-staged and costumed masked party.

The couple are surrounded by a strong supporting cast of National Theatre regulars including Fisayo Akinade (Barber Shop Chronicles, National Theatre) as a gay Mercutio whose fate propels the tragic events unfolding. His relationship with Benvolio (a strong Shubham Saraf, An Adventure, Bush Theatre) casts a new light on his fate.

Tamsin Greig (Talking Heads, Bridge Theatre) savours every word and proves an infuriating Lady Capulet while Deborah Findlay (Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre) is an endearing Nurse.

Director Simon Godwin (Twelfth Night, National Theatre) has created a film which has its roots on the stage but is visually striking as well as making use of darkness and shadow to conjure up a forbidding atmosphere.

Despite the historic nature of the story, the threat of gangs and knife crime feel like a problem with which London is already grappling.

Covid-19 has caused all sorts of problems for theatre and at a time when social distancing means venues remain shut this is exactly the sort of celluloid representation and experimentation that former audiences will very much appreciate.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy National Theatre Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.