Romeo And Juliet Presented By Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company

22 August 2016 | 4:01 pm | James Daniel

"You can't see him anything other than a rather creepy Romeo 20 years [Juliet's] elder."

Live broadcast theatre has become quite popular, particularly thanks to the National Theatre Live program, which carefully selects the best plays in London to be broadcast live around the world.

However, Branagh Theatre Live doesn't seem to have given quite as much thought to the whole theatre-filmed-and-played-live-in-cinema thing. Kenneth Branagh's Romeo & Juliet simply doesn't work on screen. The show was broadcast in black and white, and while there was some shaky justification for this choice the lighting was completely unsuited to it (as it was clearly designed for the live audience, obviously in colour). From the start it was clear we were getting a second rate version of this show. But the real issues lay in directing actors for the stage without any thought for how the heightened Shakespearian style would look when zoomed in with cameras. Derek Jacobi came across as hammy and overacted with close-up, laboured monologues, but I'm sure he would be great on stage. Lily James is truly fantastic - and surprisingly convincing as an 11-year-old Juliet - but when the camera zooms in on Richard Madden's hairy chest and designer stubble you can't see him anything other than a rather creepy Romeo 20 years her elder. All in all, Romeo & Juliet is a slightly-better-than-average West End production with star quality behind it, but has been poorly transformed to screen. Unless you're a big fan of Lily James or Richard Madden, you'd be better off seeing what National Theatre Live has coming up instead.