Starcrossed at Wilton’s Music Hall | Review

Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. That is probably one of the most well-known openings to a Shakespeare play. Of course, it is the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story, two people from warring families fall in love and tragedy strikes.  But Romeo and Juliet are not the only two people in the play. There are many others, each with their own lives and story. Rachel Garnet has taken this idea and run with it which is why I went to fair Verona – in the shape of Wilton’s Music Hall – to see Starcrossed.

Starcrossed - Connor Delves (Mercutio) and Tommy Sim’aan (Tybalt) Photo Pamela Raith Photography.
Starcrossed – Connor Delves (Mercutio) and Tommy Sim’aan (Tybalt) Photo Pamela Raith Photography.

Romeo Montague is young and in love and, as young men do in such circumstances, has told all to his friend Mercutio (Connor Delves). Mercutio is a fellow with a love of fun and adventure and suggests that he and Romeo crash the party being held that night by Lord Capulet. Reluctantly Romeo agrees and the two of them don their masks to sneak by the watchful Tybalt (Tommy Sim’aan) and sneak in. The rest as they say is history. Romeo sees Juliette, falls in love, etc, etc, etc. While this insanity happens, Mercutio does what every sensible party blagger does and gets roaringly drunk. So drunk in fact that he goes into the garden to, well I’m sure you can guess. Out there, he is caught by Tybalt who is not too happy with the way Mercutio is treating the Capulet grass. The two engage in discussion – Mercutio wittily and Tybalt accusingly – until, spying Romeo about to climb the balcony, and worried Tybalt might see him, Mercutio distracts the other by planting a kiss firmly on his lips. This single drunken kiss sets off a spark in both men that turns into a raging fire of desire and, dare one say it, love.

I want you to travel back with me to 1595 and after four years, Will Shakespeare has finally finished Romeo and Juliet. He has a glass or two of mead to celebrate then picks up the papers, throws them into his case and walks out to show the world his new play.

Unfortunately, in his haste, our Will leaves behind some of the script, and it is discarded only to be found some 450 years later by Rachel Garnet and turned into a stand-alone play. OK I know that didn’t happen but Rachel’s writing dovetails into the plot of Romeo and Juliet so perfectly, you could imagine they came from the same quill. The writing is excellent, the prose and style work and the story is actually quite believable. After all, there really was no reason for Mercutio and Tybalt to battle the way they do in Romeo and Juliet Act III: Scene 1. Neither man is a direct blood relation of Lords Montague or Capulet and yet, inexplicably Mercutio sets out to antagonise Tybalt and now we know the reason why.

Connor Delves and Tommy Sim’aan excel as Mercutio and Tybalt respectively. Delves really embraces life as Mercutio. Up for a laugh and always ready to start and share a joke. He loves life and lives for today for tomorrow may never come. In stark contrast Sim’aan’s Tybalt is uptight, constantly wound up, ready to see any look or comment as an attack and ultimately afraid that his tomorrow may go the same way as his father Salvatore. Together these two polar opposites make a perfect couple with a chemistry that trips off the stage and takes everyone into their wild romantic ride. But wait, I hear you say. Are there no others in the lives of Mercutio and Tybalt? Well yes there are. Having a quick count up I think there are around ten other characters in Starcrossed and there is one man ‘The Player’ played by Gethin Alderman who fills those roles From the Lords Montague and Capulet, through the Friar, Romeo and even Juliette, Alderman brings life to everyone and makes each character a unique and believable person on the stage. A superb performance of comedy and tragedy in equal measure which Alderman delivers with panache.

The set by Ruari Murchison, who also did costumes, feels very Globe-like and appropriate for the show and Director Philip Wilson, along with Fight & Intimacy Director Haruka Kuroda make great use of the multi-level space. Harry Blake’s music is sweet and very time appropriate, while the sound effects are well put together and very realistic – not always a good thing as you’ll hear in the garden.

Ultimately, Starcrossed is an excellent show that shows reverence to Shakespeare but is also an excellent piece of writing in its own right. There is a fine mix of tragedy and comedy – particularly the opening of the second act which could have come straight from a Whitehall farce – and you cannot help but fall into the lives of these two young men who fall in love in a world that won’t tolerate them. The acting, direction and design all bring the story together beautifully leading to two hours of solid entertainment with an ending that will bring tears to the eyes of the hardest of hearts.

I have one fault with Starcrossed. In the same way Wicked changes the way you view The Wizard of Oz, so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Romeo and Juliet in quite the same way again.  But, do you know what, I don’t mind. In fact, as with Wicked I’m so pleased I have now seen the real story behind the tale of the other pair of star-crossed lovers.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

A fresh and sexy twist on one of the world’s most famous love stories, ‘Starcrossed’ reveals the intrigue and passion of a forbidden romance between ‘Romeo & Juliet’ characters Mercutio and Tybalt – forged in strife, stifled by circumstance and silenced by history.

Connor Delves (who created the role of Mercutio in New York and Washington D.C.), Tommy Sim’aan (Tybalt) and Gethin Alderman (The Player) are joined by Ed Tunningley as understudy.

Creative Team :
Director Philip Wilson
Set & Costume Designer Ruari Murchison
Lighting Designer Simisola Majekodunmi
Music & Sound Director Harry Blake
Fight Director Haruka Kuroda
Casting Director Harry Blumenau
General Management Arden Entertainment

Produced by Jacob Schott & Visceral Entertainment in association with Ticking Clock Theatre

Jacob Schott & Visceral Entertainment in association with Ticking Clock Theatre present the UK premiere of

By Rachel Garnet
Directed by Philip Wilson
Wednesday 1 June – Saturday 25 June, 2022

Wilton’s Music Hall
Graces Alley,
London E1 8JB

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