ROMEO AND JULIET

1978

This page is dedicated to Ren, who generously sent the photos

This BBC TV production was part of The Plays of William Shakespeare series. Mr. Rickman played Tybalt.

Synopsis

The two leading families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues, are feuding. Romeo, a Montague, falls in love with Juliet, a Capulet, at a ball which he attends in disguise. The night, he waits under her window and hears her speak of her love for him. He declares his love for her. They marry in secret the next day, helped by Friar Laurence.

Tybalt, a Capulet, quarrels with and kills Romeo's friend Mercutio. Romeo, arriving on the scene, kills Tybalt. He is banished, and after spending the night with Juliet, goes to Mantua. Meanwhile, Juliet's father wants her to marry Paris. The friar tells Juliet to agree to this, but arranges for her to take a potionwhich will make her seem dead for two days. He plans to warn Romeo, who will rescue her from her tomb, but the message to Romeo goes astray. Romeo, hearing that Juliet is dead, comes to the tomb, and kills Paris who is there too. Then he kisses Juliet, takes poison and dies. Juliet awakens and, seeing what has happened, stabs herself. On discovery of the tragedy, the two families are finally persuaded to end their quarrel.

From The World of Shakespeare, by Anna Claybourne and Rebecca Treays, Usborne Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-7460-2454-1

Review

Reviewed by Fausta, 26 December 2001

Overall rating: 5 hands
Rickman rating: 5 hands, in spite of the outfits

I was finally able to get a hold of this version of Romeo & Juliet when my local public library purchased a whole set of the BBC TV Plays of Shakespeare. Finally, since the BBC has restricted its purchase to educational institutions only (maybe because of copyright issues? Who knows), and even then the price is prohibitive for me -- $90+ for one DVD is just not in the budget. A pity, since this TV series of the plays was my introduction to many of the lesser-known Shakespeare works, like Timon of Athens. All the same, this is an excellent production of Romeo & Juliet, even when it doesn’t have the lush production values – and budget -- of the Zeffirelli R&J. Featuring some of the legendary actors of the British stage, several young performers stand out, especially Rebecca Saire as a clearly young and innocent Juliet, Anthony Andrews (Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited) as Mercutio, and Alan Rickman as Tybalt.

Twenty-three years ago a very young -- but still with that wonderful voice we all recognize -- Mr. Rickman steals the third act. He credibly plays his part and fights two ferocious mortal duels that foreshadow Mr. Rickman’s later dueling scene in Les Liaisions Dangereuses on stage. A highlight of this production, the duels are not simply another period-drama fencing scene but a street fight among gang members. A. Andrews & AR both conveyed its anger and destruction. Had the casting been up to me, I'd cast Mr. Andrews as Romeo.

It took me a while to get used to Mr. Rickman's get-up, since to my 21st-century sensibilities two-tone tights, codpiece (very distracting, at that), and pillbox hat are just too much, but the third act itself stands out as one of Mr. Rickman’s finest and most physical performances. Years later he'd bring the same energy to his portrayal of the Sherriff of Nottingham.

In all, a pleasant surprise, and a very impressive early performance.

A Tybalt Album

Courtesy of Ren

Recommended reading

The works of William Shakespeare are widely available on print and on the internet.

R. Fahey has kindly sent the following: There are two books that refer to the BBC Shakespeare collection:

  1. William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (His The BBC TV Shakespeare), by John Wilders, 1978 Mayflower Books Inc., ISBN 0-8317-7469-X
  2. The BBC Shakespeare Plays: Making the televised canon, by Susan Willis, 1991, The University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 0-8078-1963-8 (cloth); ISBN 0-8078-4317-2 (paperback)

Links

Amanda's screenshots
William Shakespeare in the Encyclopædia Britannica