From Prince Charles to Romeo – Josh O’Connor to star in new Shakespeare adaptation
Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley are two of the most notable breakout stars of recent years, thanks to their performances in TV hits The Crown – with O’Connor playing Prince Charles in Seasons 3 and 4 – and Chernobyl – in which Buckley plays Lyudmilla Ignatenko, whose husband is among the first firefighters at the scene of the radioactive explosion. If anyone was in any doubt that these are names to watch, the pair have now taken on the fabled roles of Romeo and Juliet in a new adaptation of the Shakespeare classic, set to air this spring.
O’Connor and Buckley were originally meant to star in a new stage production of the play by the National Theatre. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, however, it was decided that the adaptation would run as a made-for-TV-movie instead. Playbill reports that the renowned London theatre’s Lyttelton stage was transformed into a film studio specially for the project – the first time an original production for screen has been created on the National Theatre site.
Directed by NT Associate Simon Godwin and adapted by Emily Burns, it stars O’Connor and Buckley (also known for films like Emma and Wild Rose, respectively), along with an illustrious cast including Deborah Findlay, Tamsin Greig, Fisayo Akinade, Lucian Msamati, Shubham Saraf and David Judge. A modern twist on the Shakespeare original set in present-day Italy, it centres on the famous ‘star-crossed lovers’ as they strive to be together against a backdrop of conflicting Catholic and secular views, corruption and violence.
O’Connor will be the latest in a long line of famous actors who’ve played the coveted male lead, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Orlando Bloom and Douglas Booth. At 30, he’s also significantly older than some of his predecessors (DiCaprio was just 21 when he appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version). And – mercifully – older still than in Shakespeare’s original; in which the eponymous couple are little more than children, with Juliet said to be just 13.
Godwin is quoted as stating: ‘Shakespeare’s potential for reinvention is endless… 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.’
The 90-minute film will premiere at 9pm on Sunday 4 April on Sky Arts (UK) and 9pm Friday 23 April on PBS (US) as part of the broadcaster’s Great Performances series. For more information, visit nationaltheatre.org.
Subscribe now to get 3 issues of Tatler for just £1, plus free home delivery and free instant access to the digital editions
More from Tatler
In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.