Romeo and Juliet: Theatre Review

CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

I have never seen Romeo and Juliet on the stage, which may be considered some type of crime for an avid theatregoer like me. So what better introduction than a production starring the gorgeous Lily James and Richard Madden, who recently worked together on Disney’s Cinderella?

I must confess Shakespeare is not my bag. Unless I studied a text at school or know it from movie adaptations, I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Luckily, I know Romeo and Juliet well thanks to Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, who just can’t ever be topped – James and Madden don’t even come close.

It’s quite hard to put my finger on why but for 1) Madden didn’t seem like the right casting choice. He didn’t deliver the lines properly, hit the right beats or just inject enough drama into the role. The only thing that made him a good Romeo was that he is very attractive (so hot!) but that can only get you so far with Shakespeare. 2) James was overcompensating and going overboard with her girlishness, her breathlessness and, later, despair. Not always, but often, and especially towards the end. She definitely comes off better though – she is mesmorising and delivers her lines well. I liked her, but I wished she reined it in a bit at times.

CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

As a modern woman, I scoff at the whole concept of star-crossed lovers who know they want to marry after a day. I don’t buy that shit, and I’m very cynical watching these stories. Even so, I didn’t feel their romance, their desperation, or the heartbreak at the other dying. I just didn’t connect with their relationship at all or feel ANYTHING.

Derek Jacobi was a light-hearted Mercutio and was very funny, but it seemed odd such an old man being friends with a young Romeo. Meera Syal was a great addition as Nurse, and her chemistry with James was wonderful, but she did also go overboard in the pursuit of laughs. I just expected better from a production co-directed by Kenneth Branagh (with Rob Ashford). How very disappointing.

Romeo and Juliet runs at London’s Garrick Theatre until 13th August.

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