An original film for television by the National Theatre, Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet premieres Friday, April 23 at 9 p.m. on PBS, pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app. This stylized film of Shakespeare’s masterpiece celebrates the theatrical imagination, moving from the stripped-down aesthetic of a rehearsal into a cinematic journey that embraces the architecture of the theater space and varied backstage spaces of the National’s Lyttelton Theatre. In this contemporary rendering of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, a company of actors in a shuttered theater bring to life the tale of two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and hate.
Starring Josh O’Connor (The Crown, Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu) and Jessie Buckley (Fargo, Chernobyl) as Romeo and Juliet, the production is directed by Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Simon Godwin and is adapted for television by Emily Burns. The ensemble cast features Fisayo Akinade as Mercutio, Shubham Saraf as Benvolio, Deborah Findlay as the Nurse, David Judge as Tybalt, Alex Mugnaioni as Paris, Ellis Howard as Sampson, Tamsin Greig as Lady Capulet and Lucian Msamati as the Friar, Adrian Lester as the Prince, Lloyd Hutchinson as Lord Capulet, Colin Tierney as Lord Montague and Ella Dacres as Peta.
“During the ongoing performance shutdown in London and New York, we’re delighted to participate in this compelling hybrid of theater and film that brings an exciting contemporary perspective to one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays,” said Great Performances Executive Producer David Horn. “We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with the National Theatre.” The series broadcast the National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors in November 2020 as part of its fourth annual “Broadway’s Best” lineup on PBS.
“Shakespeare’s potential for reinvention is endless,” said director Simon Godwin. “Over 17 days of filming, the company was united by a sense of shared exploration. As well as being given intimate access to the thoughts and feelings of characters, we were able to bring to life remarkable, forgotten spaces at the National Theatre. Desire, dreams and destiny came together to make Romeo & Juliet sing in an entirely new way.”
Throughout its more than 40-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details). Great Performances is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. John Walker is Senior Producer, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer and David Horn is Executive Producer.
Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet is produced by the National Theatre in association with Sabel Productions and Cuba Pictures. Executive Producers are Rufus Norris, Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre; Dixie Linder, Cuba Pictures; David Horn, Great Performances; Christine Schwarzman & Darren Johnston, No Guarantees; and Philip Edgar Jones, Sky Arts.
Major funding for Great Performances is provided by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, Rosalind P. Walter, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, The Starr Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, public television viewers and PBS.