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Romeo And Juliet at the Garrick theatre

Published 26 May 2016

What’s it all about?

Really? We need to discuss the plot of Romeo And Juliet? Okay, so Romeo and Juliet come from warring families. They stumble across each other at a party and fall helplessly in love; they’re teenagers, you remember what that’s like. Except the old in-fighting gets out of hand, people die and a plot to bring our young lovers together ends rather less well than it was meant to.

In this production, co-directed by Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford, we’re very definitely in “fair Verona”, in a nevertime setting that blends The Godfather and café culture with towering stone columns and swords.

Who’s in it?

The star here, arguably, is not Lily James’ exquisitely teenage Juliet – all cartwheels, wine-stealing and first love – or Richard Madden’s passion-fuelled Romeo, but Derek Jacobi’s Mercutio.

Eyebrows were raised when the stage veteran was cast as Romeo’s right hand man, but the effect it brilliant. All the youthful bravado and machismo is replaced by the sarcasm and wisdom of one who’s lived his life and talks with knowledge. While *SPOILER* Jacobi might not make it to the end of the show, his ease with Shakespeare and the joy with which he performs are probably worth the ticket price alone.

What should I look out for?

Jacobi dusting down his snake hips when the Capulet boys head off to the ball. In fact, the ball scene as a whole. Patrick Doyle’s dance beats and Ashford’s choreography is a treat that might put you in the mind of Eyes Wide Shut, but without the gratuitous nudity. And Tom Cruise.

In fact keep an ear out for Doyle’s score, which creeps into the back of many a scene lending a distinctly cinematic feel to proceedings. That’s no bad thing considering the production will be screened in cinemas on 7 July.

In a nutshell?

Derek Jacobi gives a bravura performance in Branagh’s intoxicatingly Italian Romeo And Juliet.

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Will I like it?

This is a classy Romeo And Juliet; Shakespeare meets La Dolce Vita. With Christopher Oram’s design, frankly I felt out of place without a coffee in hand. It’s a treat, leaning toward the cinematic world Branagh’s been more accustomed to for years.

And while you might go to see Ken’s big screen Prince Charming and Cinderella turning on the romance again, you’ll leave talking about one of our great classical actors stealing the show with maybe one of the most unlikely, but undoubtedly most charming, performances of his career. Bravo Mr Jacobi.

Romeo And Juliet plays at the Garrick Theatre until 13 August. You can book tickets through us here.

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