The National Theatre’s big-name ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – with hot properties Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley as the star cross’d lovers – was due to be the big London theatre event of the summer and autumn: it was such a big deal the NT had also programmed a supplementary ‘response’ play to run in tandem (‘Romeo & Julie’ by Gary Owen).
For obvious reasons it didn’t happen, and while the NT is finally open again, we’re a very long way away from being able to stage big-budget, large-cast Shakespeare blockbusters.
However, Simon Godwin’s production-that-never-was will live on. With only the huge Olivier Theatre currently open to punters, the NT’s second-biggest space, the Lyttelton, will be temporarily reconfigured into a film studio that will host a three-week-shoot to create a 90-minute version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ that will screen on the newly-free Sky Arts in 2021.
The first ever feature film actually shot at the NT, Godwin’s screen version will be set in modern Italy and will be awash with some of the brightest stars in Brit theatre, including Fisayo Akinade as Mercutio, Deborah Findlay as the Nurse, Tamsin Greig as Lady Capulet, Lucian Msamati as Benvolio, David Judge as Tybalt, Alex Mugnaioni as Paris and Ellis Howard as Sampson.
Half way between a film of a play and an original film, rehearsals starts in November, filming takes place in December and it’s expected to screen in spring.