his pared-back, intimate, profoundly unhappy piece of screened Shakespeare is the one which’s made me miss stay theatre most. Shot in 17 days beneath lockdown on the National Theatre’s Lyttelton stage, Simon Godwin’s 90-minute model stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley because the hapless lovers, his foppish reserve properly contrasting together with her tousle-haired earthiness: in any other case, they give the impression of being weirdly alike.
I want I might have seen them within the flesh. Buckley is riveting all through, and O’Connor banishes all reminiscence of his crabbed Prince Charles in The Crown. Certainly, the couple this Romeo and Juliet briefly recall are Harry and Meghan, unintentional lovers beleaguered by problematic households and exterior forces. Extra lastingly related is the play’s temper of deep division, random aggression and pure, merciless likelihood. Who can’t relate to that?
Shakespeare’s textual content has been judiciously streamlined by Emily Burns, condensing the roles of assorted messengers, apothecaries and prologues into the sturdily honourable form of Lucian Msamati’s Friar Laurence. Godwin’s manufacturing begins in what appears to be like like a rehearsal room – the place Buckley and O’Connor change quietly complicit smiles – earlier than including in layers of stage design and costume.
It underlines that this can be a piece of theatre, although the digital camera facilitates some good touches. As Romeo and Juliet embrace, Fisayo Akinade’s eloquent, dynamic Mercutio is shocked amid a young kiss with Benvolio by his murderous rival, Tybalt. Juliet’s phrases “when he shall die, take him and lower him out in little stars” are spoken as Romeo gazes at his knife, soaked in Tybalt’s blood.
And as I stated, it’s very intimate. That yearningly passionate speech is captured beneath the curve of Buckley’s armpit as Juliet presses her lonely brow to the mattress. The digital camera dwells typically on the uncooked emotion of her face and the nuanced emotions that chase throughout O’Connor’s melancholy, guarded options. The love scene is decorous, the deaths achingly actual.
The distillation of the script allows subsidiary characters to shine extra brightly than traditional. Adrian Lester brings gravitas to the Prince’s transient, expository appearances. Deborah Findlay is a subtly aggrieved however pragmatic Nurse, whereas Tamsin Greig’s icy Girl Capulet melts into liquid sorrow on the finish.
The present belongs to the 2 leads although, particularly Buckley, whose heartfelt efficiency proves that Shakespeare actually ought to have given Juliet high billing. It is a nice manufacturing with a first-rank forged that fills a lot of the void left by stay theatre. However it’s nonetheless simply not fairly the identical. Not long now, although…
Romeo and Juliet will even be proven on Easter Monday and Thur 8 April on Sky Arts