Last Thursday a friend and I went to see Romeo and Juliet starring Lily James, Richard Madden, and Derek Jacobi.
It was wonderful, I saw a live screening which was shown in black and white to channel 1950s cinema. The music was composed by Patrick Doyle, and it was perfect for the performance. This specific production brought Shakespeare into the glorious Italian 50s, and it helped illuminate the kind of atmosphere that Shakespeare wrote into his play.
Lily James was perfect as the teenager in the first flushes of love, her trembling, her uncertainty and anxiousness and Richard Madden (despite his recent injury which nearly took him out of the play) was convincingly in love. Towards the end where Madden clutched at the seemingly dead Juliet’s hand, and exclaimed “my love!” his emotions brought me near tears. Despite the story being exceptionally well known, a part of me still believed that despite everything that went against the star-crossed lovers that she still might wake up before he took his dosage of poison.
Derek Jacobi’s character Mercutio was inspired by a story of Oscar Wilde towards the end of his life and he played it exceptionally. He was humorous, and played his character as a worldly man with lots of experiences and good jokes.
Branagh kept Juliet mainly dressed in white and when she fell after taking the dose of sleeping potion, she pulled the flimsy white fabric down with her, and as it piled onto her, cloaking her in white, the climax of the story grew ever more dramatic. At the very end, the light only shone on the two main characters, Romeo dressed in black and Juliet still in white, the blood creating a vast stain on her chest. As the other characters discovered them, and the feud between the Montagues and Capulets was, for once and for all put behind them, the poignancy of the star crossed was overwhelming.
It was both a wonderful production, and a wonderful play. It tore through every emotion in a way that only Shakespeare can do. Branagh added his particular touch though, with the short introductory videos where teenagers were interviewed on the play, on the topic of love, and of the troubles and joys of living in the current era. Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet, the great Lily James and Richard Madden were amazing as the star-crossed lovers, and I like to think, that though they did not have their happy ending, that perhaps somewhere, wherever they are, they are together and in love.
Have a wonderful week, I am going to see Hamlet in Stratford Upon Avon in the next couple of weeks so don’t forget to take a look at my review!
The Clumsy Wordshaker