National Theatre is reimagining Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, in a made-for-television film featuring Chernobyl’s Jessie Buckley and The Crown’s Josh O’Connor as the titular characters.
Set in present-day Italy, the film will follow the two young lovers “in a world where Catholic and secular values clash” as they “strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption.”
It will also star Fisayo Akinade as Mercutio and Olivier winners Deborah Findlay and Tamsin Greig as the Nurse and Lady Capulet, respectively. Rounding out the cast are Lucian Msamati as Friar Laurence, Shubham Saraf as Benvolio, David Judge as Tybalt, Alex Mugnaioni as Paris and Ellis Howard as Sampson.
Originally intended for the stage, the production was due to be performed at London’s Lyttelton Theatre this summer. However, the theatrical run was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the play has been reconceived into a 90-minute film which will be shot by a collaborative team of theatre and film experts over three weeks at the Southbank venue. It will embrace the architecture of the theatre, making use of all three stages, as well as backstage and other parts of the building.
“I wanted to find a way to use that space to create something exciting and special for audiences, that utilised the exceptional skill and craft of the National Theatre’s teams, freelancers and creative associates, and that could reach as many people as we can. That’s all going to be possible with this brilliant film of Romeo and Juliet.”Rufus Norris, chief executive of the National Theatre
While the National Theatre has used the Lyttelton Theatre to film and broadcast stage productions to cinemas for more than a decade as part of their National Theatre Live programme, Romeo and Juliet marks the first time an original production for the screen has been created there.
Rehearsals for the production are due to start next month with shooting beginning in December. A television release on Sky Arts and PBS is planned for spring 2021.
Words by Bec Oakes
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