As much as I love the theatre, I don’t get to go very often. Tickets are phenomenally expensive if you want decent seats and sometimes, there just isn’t enough room for both legs. I’ve sat in my fair share of uncomfortable theatres, with obscured views and cramped seating as well as the sudden vertigo from the upper and grand circle views. But, for the first time I got to experience the thrill of live theatre from the comfort of a cinema.
Screening West End plays, operas, ballets and even art exhibitions isn’t a new fad that has just started, this has been happening for quite a few years. In fact I bought my Dad tickets for an Opera to be screened at the fancy Odeon cinema where you can eat and drink in a cinema fitting 25 people in large comfortable seats. It was a Christmas present and I just couldn’t afford tickets for the actual show but he was delighted with what he saw. I had meant to see a few shows being screened that I had missed but just never got round to going. But now that these events are so readily available I was able to see a production I was looking forward to.
The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company are currently performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at Garrick Theatre in London and I really wanted to go as not only were Richard Madden and Lily James in the leads but veteran theatre actor, Derek Jacobi, was playing Mercutio. I looked to the theatre first and simply could not afford tickets so instead my friend and I went to the Bloomsbury Curzon. After a few seat moves and mu blindness getting us better ones, we got to see a fantastic production.
After a few odd and awkward films featuring teenagers talking about love and Shakespeare, we were treated to a interesting account as to why the older Derek Jacobi was cast as Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio. An inspired reason involving Oscar Wilde towards to end of his life, spending a evening drinking with younger companions, gave clarity before the play had begun. We, the cinema audience, were also treated to watching the play in black and white, which felt as if this was exactly how all audiences were meant to experience the story.
Set in 1950s Italy, with homage to films such as La Dolce Vita, it was simple, elegant and almost pitch perfect. My friend and I did not enjoy Benvolio’s speech. It nearly ruined some scenes. It didn’t feel like he knew what he was saying just that he has to memorise the lines. But apart from this, the play was brilliant. Especially Derek Jacobi who stole every scene he was in. After seeing his interpretation, I can’t imagine Mercutio in any other way.
After seeing Richard Madden and Lily James in Cinderella, I found out about Romeo and Juliet. They are a brilliant pairing with excellent chemistry, they encapsulated the characters and delivered every line to the point I think the audience were holding their breath not wanting to miss a moment. Madden had actually injured himself a few days before and had gone through physio to make sure he was on stage for the cinema screening day around the UK, so an extra well done to him for performing.
Although Romeo and Juliet is not my favourite Shakespeare play, that is held by the more comedic plays, but this was one of my favourite interpretations I have seen. The experience has also persuaded me to seek out other shows coming to the cinema and possibly even try something outside my comfort zone. Theatre in the comfort of a cinema – I think it’s here to stay.