Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick Theatre | Review

Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick Theatre

Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick Theatre Review

So I was anticipating seeing the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company production of Romeo and Juliet for weeks!

I paid up for a ticket to go and see it live at the cinema and it was great! I would go as far as saying that it’s my favourite adaptation of Romeo and Juliet ever! And I love the Baz Luhrman version.
It was not without its faults though and I will get to that later, but first I’ll discuss the cast.
Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick


The Cast

So the Richard Madden, Lily James, and Derek Jacobi casting was definitely a big seller. It was Cinderella, all over again! Except slightly funnier and darker at the same time.

You could hear the worldwide gasp when Kenneth Branagh came onto the stage first to say that Richard Madden had severely injured his ankle! Luckily Madden pushed through, under some unnoticeable stage changes. And it was not apparent that he was injured. Trust me I would have noticed as I was watching Richard Madden very closely. For performance reasons, of course.

Richard Madden


Whilst the main actors were brilliant the rest of the cast was very good as well. I’d say that Benvolio, played by Jack Colgrave Hirst, and Lord Capulet, played by Michael Rouse were exceptional amongst their counterparts. The Nurse, played by Meera Syal took the stage a little too much in my opinion. It detracted a little from the drama, as she was so obviously the comic relief. She was good, but in the second half, I think less would have been more.
Jack Colgrave Hirst as Benvolio

The Script

There were slight differences between the original text and the Garrick script. I only noticed having studied the text twice in my lifetime. And the fact my favourite line was either cut or accidentally missed:

Thou cut’st my head off with a golden axe, and smilest upon the stroke that murders me.’

That was the line, for anyone who cared.

Also, there was an additional text from the Nurse and Mercutio methinks. Probably to widen their parts, which was okay. I liked Mercutio’s additional lines, I wasn’t so keen on the expansion of the Nurse’s role.

Mercutio, Romeo & Benvolio
Mercutio, Romeo & Benvolio


Mercutio was played by Derek Jacobi in a piece of inspired casting by Kenneth Branagh and Lucy Bevan. Branagh explained this choice in the prologue to the production. He told the audience a story about two men getting drunk at a bar with a man in Paris who regaled them with stories. When the night came to a close and their money was spent the old, dishevelled-looking man got up and left. The two men asked the bartender who the man was because they had failed to ask. And the bartender said: ‘That is Oscar Wilde.’

Branagh used inspiration from this tale to turn Mercutio into a down-on-his-luck, but no less fun and beguiling version of the swashbuckling mate of Romeo that we all know and love. And Derek Jacobi was stupendous as it.

He oozed charm and whip and added his own catchphrase in ‘ba-boom’. Much like Sheldon’s version of ‘Bazinga’. Saying it at the most inopportune times, and being vicious in a loveable way.

His death scene was perhaps not as moving as others, nor as angry until he was off-stage. But it was very convincingly done! Romeo is left with the blame and sadness that comes with it.

It’s only a shame that Mercutio is not in the second act at all.

Romeo & Juliet balcony

First Act

Romeo & Juliet – the title – seems to describe the split of the show. The first act was about Romeo and the second was about Juliet. There was a little imbalance throughout the show.

The first half was very funny, unusually so. Even after the death of Mercutio, there was a modicum of humour. Yet the second act was dark and dreary. There were moments of pure menace from Lord Capulet who looked as though he would attack his own daughter at one moment! It’s terrifying.

Second Act

Romeo & Juliet Die
Death Scene – spot the imagery…

Unfortunately, due to the famous nature of the show, there are only certain moments that can be changed to fit the director’s vision. The death scene is unchangeable, so it is almost dull. It was moving, don’t get me wrong, and Richard Madden and Lily James did it well. But we all know what is going to happen.

The Staging

I think the balcony scene and the meeting scene were great! That was down to the staging and Lily James, for the majority of it.

Romeo & Juliet’s meeting scene was done at the party, as always. However, instead of meeting through dance or being pulled aside, Juliet is singing an Italian, 1960s song to her father. She catches Romeo’s eye. The moment is palpable. You can sense the electricity cast between them, even in acting. It was lovely and unique.

The balcony scene was equally as so. Juliet, aged 14 – and believably so – has stolen a bottle of champagne from the party. She swigs from it out of sight on the balcony. It is believable, charming and very funny. This is where Richard Madden’s comedic abilities shone through. The balcony scene was very sweet, not sickly so. And the drunken aspect of Juliet made it very amusing yet charming. Probably my favourite scene of the evening.

Romeo & Juliet 2


Final Comments

All in all, if there are any tickets left available for the theatre performance I would suggest you buy a ticket. It is a performance to see for many different variables:

From Derek Jacobi’s singing and drunken screeching of ‘Romeo!’

Lily James’ champagne swigging.

Richard Madden’s comedic abilities.

Meera Syal’s banter.

And Jack Colgrave Hirst and Michael Rouse’s performances

There were a lot of factors in the show which I loved and deserved to be loved. Perfection.

Love Ellie x

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Romeo & Juliet at the Garrick Theatre

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