Sweet but chaste, it’s love in virtual Verona: PATRICK MARMION reviews Romeo And Juliet
Romeo And Juliet (romeojuliet2021.com)
Verdict: Polished but too polite
Good Grief (originaltheatreonline.com)
Verdict: Good but glib grief
This Valentine’s Day is likely to be a more restrained occasion than usual. With restaurants and bars closed, it’s either the kitchen or the living room for that romantic date.
So maybe it makes sense that we are being offered an unusually chaste version of what is often regarded as the greatest love story of all time: the Bard’s Romeo And Juliet.
A new production online sees Romeo played by Sam Tutty, who recently won an Olivier Award for his turn in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. Opposite him, Emily Redpath, who’s barely out of drama school, is an eye-catching Juliet. And revered Shakespearean Derek Jacobi has a tiny cameo, reciting the play’s famous opening lines.
Thanks to computer wizardry, they’ve managed to film the five-act drama legally, with a full cast, in a virtual theatre.
A new production online sees Romeo played by Sam Tutty (pictured), who recently won an Olivier Award for his turn in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. Opposite him, Emily Redpath (pictured), who’s barely out of drama school, is an eye-catching Juliet
It’s meant to be set in a near future; still under plague, alas. But with Alexa supplying the music, costumes apparently from Next and Covid masks for the ball, it feels distinctly . . . now.
I had hoped the heat of the play’s passions might not just warm my heart, but melt away the air of reserve.
But Nick Evans’s production remains a very polite affair; and even in the climactic love scene, the priority seems to have been keeping Tutty and Redpath’s modesty intact.
More frustratingly, though, the pace of Shakespeare’s language is lost; and the delivery sometimes grinds to a halt, rather than racing to the finish.
I do, however, salute the cast and crew for overcoming the assorted obstacles presented by filming during lockdown. And there are many positives — Tutty’s rueful Romeo has a maturity beyond his years, while Redpath’s longing for him is sweetly touching. But there’s no need to lock up your daughters — unless it’s for Jonny Labey as Juliet’s betrothed Paris, who even under a mask manages to get a bit excitable.
Good grief, meanwhile, is a thoroughly modern version of a doomed love story. It stars Sian Clifford (the sister from Fleabag) opposite Nikesh Patel as Adam, a young man whose wife has recently died of cancer.
Cat was a good friend of the late wife, Liv (get it?!), so their attraction is a little bit taboo.
Natalie Abrahami’s production is, however, a slightly glib take on the terrible enervation of grief and although the cool metropolitan duo look and sound real enough, it’s not always very easy to sympathise with them.
Lorien Haynes’s writing insulates them, too, with slick, slightly sneery attitudes and very sweary dialogue.
Patel is easy on the eye as Adam, but he’s otherwise a slightly indistinct, bearded entity. Cat is more sharply drawn — sour, cynical and sinewy — and Clifford augments these traits with one of the iciest stares in showbusiness.
To really warm to it, though, it may help if you’re a fan of Fleabag and its vision of the sexually faithless middle classes.
Natalie Abrahami’s production is, however, a slightly glib take on the terrible enervation of grief and although the cool metropolitan duo look and sound real enough, it’s not always very easy to sympathise with them
The touching torment of a generation
Angels In America (ntathome.com)
Verdict: Heavenly theatrical box set
As if to prove that theatre can do box-sets, The National Theatre has released Marianne Elliott’s seven-hour, 2017 revival of Tony Kushner’s marathon of a drama about the Aids epidemic in New York in the 1980s.
It’s a wildly ambitious rollercoaster of a yarn, fizzing with sparkling dialogue, cosmic speculation and a host of heavenly and terrestrial characters.
Russell Tovey shines, too, as the desperately torn, gay Mormon lawyer whose wife (Denise Gough) is driven crazy by his abandonment
Look out for Andrew ‘Spiderman’ Garfield as the young man dying of the disease, in the days before treatment was available; and James McCardle as his tortured lover. Russell Tovey shines, too, as the desperately torn, gay Mormon lawyer whose wife (Denise Gough) is driven crazy by his abandonment.
But Nathan Lane steals it as real-life lawyer Roy Cohn — a closet homosexual who made his name as Joseph McCarthy’s rottweiler during the anti-communist witch- hunts of the 1950s.
Some of the stage spectacle is lost on the small screen but this is still a chance to catch a terrific production of a landmark play that shook the world of theatre. P.M.
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