It’s June 2022, Pride Month. Amongst hundreds of rainbow posts on Instagram, one stood out for me. Tess Holiday (a plus-size model who recently came out as pansexual), shared a tile that said “Pride is important because someone tonight still believes they’re better off dead than queer.” This means a lot because things are still changing and going in the right, more open, and tolerant direction, but there’s also a lot of work to be done. But imagine, how much more difficult and complex could love to be for someone who’s gay during the times of Shakespeare!
Starcrossed: in an alternative version of Romeo and Juliet… but not so straight this time!
With a concept of an alternative reality of the most classic love story ever told, “&Juliet” paved the way to a fun, not-so-serious yet empowering reality of Romeo and Juliet’s tale. So when I heard about “Starcrossed”, I knew right away it had so much potential and couldn’t wait to see it!
Rachel Garnet’s “Starcrossed”, which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2018, reimagines William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a gay love story between the known yet supporting characters: Mercutio and Tybalt.
Shakespeare’s well-known tragedy is reimagined from the perspective of Romeo’s best friend Mercutio and Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. Due to the bloody feud between the two families in the original play, the two end up being mortal enemies. In the “Starcrossed” version, due to an unexpected series of events, they share a kiss, and… everything changes from there.
The play puts a lot of spotlight on the difficult choice between being happy in love versus being loyal to the family and the status quo. There’s a huge issue of the stigma that comes from being close with someone from a rival family, but also from being with someone who’s of the same sex.
It’s a play of 3 actors… but boy, do they deliver!
Just like “Romeo and Juliet”, this play is a tragedy, it does, however, brighten up most of the “heavy” moments with light humour and cheesy flirting lines. Gethin Alderman (“The Player”) brings on the comedic factor while juggling multiple roles: Romeo, Juliet’s father, and even a beggar. His short episode as Juliet made the whole audience cry with laughter (including me). It truly shows the quality of his professional skills – especially in these short moments when he exits the stage as one character just to appear a couple of seconds later as someone completely new. His speed of change and quality of acting is phenomenal.
Connor Delves (Mercutio) and Tommy Sim’aan (Tybalt) have great chemistry on stage and portray a relationship between two completely different men. Mercutio is cheeky, flamboyant, and has a witty reply to anything that comes his way – he lives for today, and that is all that matters. Tybalt, on the other hand, is much more serious, and focused on his status and success – he lives for the future. What they both slowly start to realise is that love is something they never planned, and it will take a huge sacrifice from both of them to have a chance to keep their love a secret.
Btw, I loved how Connor Delves created his character: he has some social skills of Petyr Baelish from “Game of Thrones” mixed with an attitude of Timon from “Lion King” (this is super random but that’s the first comparison that came to my mind hahaha).
Watch “Starcrossed” this June only!
The show looks like it took a huge effort to prepare – there are real sword fights, there are songs and tons of quick outfit changes. Yet, the 3 actors look like they just sincerely like spending time with each other and it makes every scene look so…effortless (in a way).
One more important factor in the play for me: lights design! It’s balanced to perfection, with lots of colours, and every scene, if stopped, would potentially look like a painting. Amazing work by Simisola Majekodunmi!
If you can only watch 1 show this month, make it “Starcrossed”. You will laugh, you will cry, and its main message will keep you pondering long after you leave Wilton’s Hall (such a stunning venue, btw, dates back to 1859 and has such a vintage vibe to it!). If you’re looking for a fresh comedy with no cringe, and an action play featuring sword fights, but you also want a touching love story, look no more. I give it my personal West End Evenings stamp of approval (a glittery one!).
Directed by: Philip Wilson
Author: Rachel Garnet
Ticket price: £10++
1 -25 June 2022