Previewed 12 May 2016, Opened 25 May 2016, Closed 13 August 2016 at the Garrick Theatre in London
Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford direct a major revival of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in London starring Lily James and Richard Madden in the title roles.
The world's most famous story of love and loss. Despite a long-standing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets when Romeo, only son of the Montagues, meets Juliet, the Capulets' only daughter, he falls in love with her and she with him. With the help of Juliet's Nurse, they are married in secret by Friar Lawrence.
The cast features Lily James as 'Juliet' and Richard Madden as 'Romeo' with Derek Jacobi as 'Mercutio' and Meera Syal as 'Nurse'. This production is directed by Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Howard Hudson, music by Patrick Doyle and sound by Christopher Shutt. Lily James and Richard Madden recently starred as 'Cinderella' and 'Prince Kit' in Kenneth Branagh's live-action remake of Cinderella for Disney. Lily James' other credits include the role of Lady Rose in the BBC TV series Downton Abbey. Richard Madden played the role of 'Robb Stark' in the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. Kenneth Branagh's West End directing credits include William Shakespeare's Hamlet starring Jude Law in the title role (2009) and Hamish McColl and Sean Foley's Ducktastic! (2005).
When this production opened here at the Garrick Theatre in May 2016, Ann Treneman in The Times thought that "this production by Kenneth Branagh's company may sound like Shakespeare but it looks like a Fellini film... Lily James is the absolute star here... Kenneth Branagh and his co-director Rob Ashford have shown a terrific attention to detail here, adding gestures, little asides, jokes that add meaning and make the whole production seem fresh... Still, with Christopher Oram's beautiful set, this production is gorgeous to look at. The final scene is stunning." Emma Brankine in The Sun hailed Lily James' "triumphant return to the theatre... This is Shakespeare with a silly, stroppy edge." Neil Norman in The Daily Express thought that, "modishly set on the cusp of the 1960s, it looks terrific... It is a pity the production does not match its framing architecture... The surprisingly pedestrian direction does not help. Branagh’s theatrical gifts appear to have deserted him here with actors addressing the audience like rank amateurs when they should be talking to each other." Alice Jones in The i Newspaper described it as a "star-laden but fatally leaden production... It all looks very stylish but it never feels authentic... Too often, it's played at a fever pitch. Everyone shouts, all of the time; emotions are signalled lavishly but feeling is thin on the ground," concluding that while Lily James is "a luminous heroine but even she cannot revive this production. A tale of woe, indeed." Michael Billington in The Guardian commented that "there are many ways of approaching Shakespeare’s youthful tragedy: Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh take the scenic route in this new production. We are plunged into a vividly imagined 1950s Italy of dark-suited men, petticoated women, bicycling friars, patriarchal oppression and frantic partying... But the production is staged with great fluency... There is also good work from a strong supporting cast... The whole thing is done with a speed and vigour that ensures we are never bored." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard said that it is "a safe and old-fashioned account of Shakespeare's great portrait of 'star-crossed lovers'. There are some flashes of wit but it is often slow going and its chief redeeming feature is Lily James as Juliet... This interpretation is not romantic or deeply moving. Though it is stylish, accessible and illuminated by Lily James, it misses the passionate intensity of the tragedy." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail wrote that "Sir Kenneth Branagh directs Shakespeare with a seriousness and opulence not much seen in British theatre at present. And in luminous Lily James he has found the perfect Juliet... She has the beauty of a Keira Knightley but buckets more stage ability and charm. Bravo." Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times explained that "there is, in short, a lot of casting baggage in evidence here. Which may be just as well, as there isn't a great deal of dynamism or passion on show in its own right. It may be time to say the hitherto unsayable: that although KennethBranagh is a pre-eminent actor and director, having largely made his reputation in Shakespeare, he’s not actually all that great shakes (no pun intended) at directing the Bard’s work... This is a conventional presentation only with reference to conventions now thoroughly outdated." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph said that "Lily James is the damsel riding to the rescue of a West End production in distress... You feel the creative team were more interested in the picturesque over-view than detailed character work."
"Anyone who knows Lily James solely from War And Peace or Downton Abbey will be astounded by the maturity of her performance in Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh's production of Romeo And Juliet. Not only does she chart every step of Juliet's progression from champagne-swigging adolescent to self-possessed wife but her mastery of the verse is as remarkable as her mastery of the mood. Richard Madden's Romeo is virile and intense but prosaic, leaving James the undoubted star of this elegant, fast-moving but superficial production... Patrick Doyle's jarring music underscores and undercuts the action. The balcony scene is clumsily staged." The Sunday Express
"This new production from the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company sparkles with two of the fairest stars in all telly heaven: Lily James as Juliet and Richard Madden as her Romeo... It's co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, and the designer Christopher Oram has devised an austere, slightly fascistic set for the 1950s Verona setting... It's an entertaining production in many ways, with the comedy played up to the hilt - the light that shapes the shadow of the tragedy - and plenty of bold mucking around with the script... This is an efficient and good-looking production that comes nowhere near your heartstrings." The Sunday Times
"Images of stars glitter through Shakespeare’s youthful tragedy of terrible haste and pitiful waste. To which directors Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford have added another cluster to their exuberant, monochrome, Fifties, Fellini-style, dolce vita staging... Derek Jacobi sparkles because his verse speaking is red-hot. But Lily James's Juliet dazzles. When she falls in love, a glowing, cartwheeling innocent finds focus and radiance, lit from within by an erotic passion she has never felt before. By contrast, Richard Madden's hunky Romeo is a low-voltage lover – even his voice sounds flat and strained... The story unravels with impressive clarity and terrific urgency on Christopher Oram's granite-and-pillar set... In a play filled with doom and gloom, stars blaze, none more brightly than Lily James." The Mail on Sunday
Romeo and Juliet in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 12 May 2016, opened on 25 May 2016 and closes on 13 August 2016.
RSC's Romeo and Juliet directed by Peter Gill 2004
Previewed 16 December 2004, Opened 21 December 2004, Closed 8 January 2005 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London
The Royal Shakespeare Company present Romeo and Juliet in London directed by Peter Gill.
"Peter Gill's account is impressively clear, uncluttered and atmospheric" The Mail on Sunday
The cast for Romeo and Juliet features Matthew Rhys as 'Romeo' and Sian Brooke as 'Juliet' with Anita Booth, Peter Bygott, Caolan Byrne, Edward Clarke, Samuel Clemens, Matt Cross, Jonathan Forbes, Trystan Gravelle, David Hargreaves, Tam Mutu, John Normington, Sion Tudor Owen, Emily Raymond, Jessica Tomchak, Gideon Turner, June Watson, Leo Wringer and Anatol Yusef. Directed by Peter Gill with set designs by Simon Daw, costume designs by Clancy Deirdre, lighting by Hartley T A Kemp, music by Terry Davies, sound by Jeremy Dunn and fights by Terry King. This production comes into London's West End following a season at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 2004.
"An extraordinary achievement, not just to re-invigorate but to re-inaugurate Shakespeare's most youthful tragedy" The Independent
"The great novelty of this new Romeo and Juliet is that it's staged with chaps in tights. Usually with this play it's updated with youths in bomber jackets and carrying mobiles... The trouble with Peter Gill's in period production is that it's emotionally a bit sedate. The early infatuation between the lovers never quite develops into teenage passion at its most heart-tearing and hormonal. The set - Verona as seen on a tourist tea towel - doesn't help. Sian Brooke's Juliet is lovely but she sounds a little too mature and confident. Matthew Rhys is an appealing, meat-and-potatoes Romeo. But while the pair go through the motions, the sparks don't fly." The Daily Express
"Matthew Rhys and Sian Brooke are delightfully fresh and ardent as the lovers" The Daily Telegraph
"Peter Gill's productions are rightly celebrated for their precise attention to detail and a passionate intensity, especially when the play is one of his own family dramas. Romeo and Juliet is a family drama of tragic intensity, but on his return to directing for the RSC, Gill's sure touch seems to have left him. A cool simplicity shapes his production: too cool... The setting is uncluttered, but somehow generalised, as is the acting. The young men are very young and, judging from their verse-speaking, in a hurry. Matthew Rhys is an intelligent Romeo... He falls in love with Sian Brooke's equally young, but much more innocent Juliet with remarkable speed... Looking for clarity, Gill has evened out the shadows, losing specificity and complexity to create an oddly uneventful evening." The Sunday Times
Romeo and Juliet in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 16 December 2004, opened on 21 December 2004 and closed on 8 January 2005.
Vesturport Romeo and Juliet: Love is in the Air 2004
Previewed 13 November 2004, Opened 18 November 2004, Closed 9 January 2005 at the Playhouse Theatre in London
This production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is subtitled Love is in the Air and is a circus-orientated version of the classic play using acrobatic, aerobatic and clown-esque techniques, all without losing the tragic fundaments of the play. Inspired by the world of circus performance, this production of Romeo and Juliet explores the devotion of the two young lovers using stunning aerial and acrobatic choreography. Passionate and dangerous, wrapped in silk, this is a high-octane, part-romantic, part clowning, encounter between Shakespeare's 'star-cross'd lovers'.
"Bold, brash, fabulously energetic and above all, fun" The Financial Times
The cast for Vesturport's Romeo and Juliet features Gisli Orn Gardarsson as 'Romeo' and Nina Dogg Filippusdottir as 'Juliet' in addition at each performance the short six-line epilogue is spoken live on stage by a special guest star including Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Joanna Lumley, Jonathan Pryce, Dawn French, Derek Jacobi and Jenny Seagrove. The production is directed by Gisli Orn Gardarsson. This production was originally presented in London at The Young Vic Theatre in October 2003.
"European directors often approach Shakespeare with an entirely fresh eye, unhampered in the way their English counterparts are by too much textual reverence. But while this circus-style production by Icelandic theatre company Vesturport certainly belongs in the theatre rather than the church, it is too much about showmanship and not enough about basic storytelling... The problem is that the production is so in love with itself and its own little kitsch jokes - some good; and some terrible - that it forgets to tell the story until after the interval. Shakespeare wrote more than enough of Romeo and Juliet without adding lots of entirely unnecessary bits." The Guardian
"The holiday season gets off to a flying start with the return of this eye-catching Icelandic version of Romeo and Juliet, first seen at the Young Vic last year, and now laying mischievous, muscular siege to the West End. Bringing a defiantly physical spin to a text too often associated with desk-bound scholarship and dewy-eyed conventionality, Reykjavik ensemble Vesturport liberate the play's youthful zest through big-top acrobatics and a fire-breathing, anarchic sense of fun... What the 13-strong cast lack in verbal prowess, they make up for with a visual ingenuity that marries Shakespeare's imagery with breathtaking spectacle... What had risked seeming like a gravity-defying Nordic novelty act has magically acquired the necessary gravitas of a timeless tragedy." The Daily Telegraph
An Icelandic Romeo and Juliet seems as incongruous as a tropical Snow Queen or a Saharan revival of Ibsen's Brand. The dramatic temperature both of torrid Verona and of Shakespeare's most feverish tragedy will surely be wrong; or so we thought when we first saw Theater Vesturport's English-language adaptation at the Young Vic last year. Well, we couldn't have been more mistaken then, and anyone who brings similar prejudices to Gisli Orn Gardarsson's circus-style revival at the Playhouse this year couldn't be more mistaken now. My purist side naturally disapproves of an evening in which Romeo is so literally head over heels in love that he holds an airborne Juliet while hanging upside down from one of Capulet's chandeliers... My more open self remembers that the Young Vic was created for audiences yet to graduate to middle-aged events at the Old Vic, and, though the Playhouse's proscenium stage is less suited to the antics of these big-top Icelanders, still admires their fizz and inventiveness... Eccentric? Yes. Striking and even a little moving? Yes, too." The Times
Vesturport's Romeo and Juliet in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 13 November 2004, opened on 18 November 2004 and closed on 9 January 2005.