This production sees Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET performed for the first time in over 50 years at the Comedie Francaise. The play is performed in French, it is the Victor Hugo version with English surtitles.
The clean camera work exquisitely transfers the play from the stage to screen, with very effective use of close up when appropriate.
There are some wonderful touches in Ruf’s direction as for instance when Romeo blow dries Juliet’s hands with his breath.
The high, looming sets were cold and imposing (mostly tiles or marbled walls) with fluid, seamless set changes .
The costumes by Christian LaCroix were evocative of a broken down glamour.
This production resets Shakespeare’s classic play to the early twentieth century. A main theme is the idea of the vendetta and with turbulent emotions seething just under the surface. There were no extended sword fights but rather the deadly use of a small, hidden stiletto dagger.
The cast is mostly older than what we would normally see.
Pierre Louis- Callixte as Mercutio is tremendous, mischievous, a womaniser, teasing and joyous. His ‘Queen Mab’ speech is splendid and the the poetry in the speech soars.
Our tragic hero Romeo is marvellously played by Jérémy Lopez – proud and passionate, with a charming grin with a pencil thin moustache. Yes, he is struck by a coupe de foudre at the Capulet’s ball from when he first sees Juliet. He is lyrical and impulsive as he hurtles towards his tragic fate.
Suliane Brahim as Juliet is extraordinary. Small and dark she glows and drives the play. There are furious outbursts, hysterical tears and lyrical scenes too … In the balcony scene she is high up and almost rock climbing as she is perched on a tiny ledge.
The scene where she screws up her courage to take the phial Friar Lawrence, strongly played by Serge Bagdassarian, has given her is taut and tense.
Juliet’s ‘gallop apace‘ speech is joyous and impatient . She is terrified when pinned by her heavy clothes on her deathbed.
Didier Sandre is superficially charming as Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, but when Juliet defies him and refuses to marry Paris he turns explosive.
Daniele Lebrun is Lady Capulet, garbed in imposing gowns, is elegant, self centred and mostly unsympathetic to Juliet.
Claude Mathieu plays Juliet’s nurse is a stylish lady who acts as a sounding board and a mother figure for Juliet.
As Paris, Elliott Jenicot comes across as an elegant, imposing lawyer like figure who is smitten with Juliet.
Bakary Sangaré plays both the chorus and Friar John with the oily charm of a vaudeville actor.
This was a thrilling, absorbing, deeply moving production.
Running time – 3 hours including one interval.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Comedie Francaise is screening at selected arthouse cinemas from 8 July 2017.