Romeo and Juliet
You all know the story. Two star-cross’d lovers painfully wedged between two feuding families. Love and hate pitched against each other in a violent, and what becomes a deathly, dual. Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet Live Broadcast obviously portrays this narrative but in a much more stylish and accessible way.
Most school kids are force fed Shakespeare, especially Romeo and Juliet. I endured even more as I attended out of school drama classes. But even with so much exposure, my hormonal and stubborn teenage brain protested that I didn’t like it and never would. The end.
But this version showcased a side to Shakespeare that I’ve never ‘gotten’ before.
It was clear that these were young children, at only 14 years old. They’re both childish, have tantrums, give cheek to their elders and break the rules. In one adapted scene, Juliet secretly necks wine on the balcony whilst Romeo gazes on at her drunken stupor. This is age old angry teenage stuff that most of us go through – bar the fancy balcony bit…
I did feel myself, by the second half, wanting to grab Juliet by the shoulders to shake her into some sense. Just so she would stop whining on about this boy she literally met, not even met – saw(!), a day ago who is now apparently the love of her life! But that is exactly what teenagers do. They’re dramatic, sensitive, impulsive and often fall in what they think is love, deep and fast.
Richard Madden playing ‘hot stuff’ Romeo, Derek Jacobi expertly playing Kenneth’s older version of Mercutio, and Meera Syal playing a sassy Nurse, were my stand out performers. And no it’s not because Richard is some serious eye candy, or at least that’s not all of it… But it is because the Shakespearean language danced off their tongues with expression, passion and humour. Yes, I laughed at Shakespeare. What is wrong with me? I’m getting old…
I think having the broadcast in black and white was a genius touch too. It added class and finesse and most certainly drama to the pretty Verona picture. Although I did miss the absence of a grand, soaring balcony. I must mention, the music and dancing that peppered this performance only added to the modernisation and charm.
So, I went into this Live broadcast terrified that if Kenneth Branagh’s version of Romeo and Juliet couldn’t make me like or understand Shakespeare, then nothing would. But well done company and director, bravo. You have managed the impossible and changed my mind! My boyfriend will be very jealous of that feat.
p.s. for any fans of GoT – Robb just can’t have a happy wedding day can he! #redwedding