“A fresh, fleet, blade-sharp revival.”
Daily Telegraph, ★★★★

The Royal Shakespeare Company production of Romeo and Juliet (2019) will be broadcast on BBC Four at 9pm on Sunday 7 June as part of Culture in Quarantine, it was announced today.

The critically acclaimed production premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in Spring 2018 and transferred to the Barbican in November of the same year. The Company then embarked on an extended national tour of the UK in the Spring of 2019, which included visits to Norwich Theatre Royal, Newcastle Theatre Royal, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Blackpool Grand Theatre, New Theatre, Cardiff and Glasgow Theatre Royal.

Romeo and Juliet is the first of six RSC titles to be broadcast as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine programme running across television, radio and online. It aims to increase access to the arts at a time when the buildings that support them are closed, and to support artists and arts organisations in the process.

The six productions are currently part of the UK education syllabus and the broadcast will be supported by a week-long programme of GCSE lesson plans themed around Romeo and Juliet taking place from Monday 15 – Friday 19 June as part of BBC Bitesize Daily.

Focussing on Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, the lessons will offer special insights from RSC actors and directors about how to decode Shakespeare’s language and bring 400-year-old plays to life for today’s audiences.

Erica Whyman, Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said; “I’m absolutely delighted that audiences across the UK will have the chance to experience the thrill of Shakespeare’s revolutionary love story afresh through BBC Culture in Quarantine this June. The play is fundamentally about how to give hope to the next generation in turbulent times, which feels incredibly relevant to now.

“To open with this production, which featured 140 regional young performers who spoke the famous Prologue wherever we toured across the UK in 2019, feels particularly timely as theatres across the nation come to terms with the unprecedented challenges ahead. Collaborating with our partner theatres in their schools and communities is central to what we do at the RSC. It is vital that we continue to listen to and reflect the voices of these communities in our work and deliver on our commitment that Shakespeare is for everyone. That can only be achieved with the necessary nationwide support for our industry.”

Other confirmed RSC titles being broadcast on BBC Four this June include Hamlet (2016, directed by Simon Godwin, with Paapa Essiedu in the title role); Macbeth (2018, directed by Polly Findlay, with Christopher Ecclestone in the title role and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth); Much Ado About Nothing (2014, directed by Christopher Luscombe, with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice); Othello (2015, directed by Iqbal Khan, with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago) and The Merchant of Venice (2015, directed by Polly Findlay, with Makram J. Khoury as Shylock).

Details of future broadcast details will be announced in due course. Please check the BBC Culture in Quarantine website for further details.

Romeo and Juliet is directed by Erica Whyman and designed by Tom Piper with lighting by Charles Balfour. Music is by Sophie Cotton and movement by Ayse Tashkiran. The production features Bally Gill, who won the Ian Charleston Award in 2019 for the title role as Romeo in 2019 and Karen Fishwick in the role of Juliet.

Bally Gill made his RSC debut as part of The Other Place Mischief Festival in 2016. In 2017, he appeared in Vice Versa, Salome and Coriolanus. His other credits include The Island Nation (Arcola Theatre), A Local Boy (The Arts Theatre), Dinner with Saddam (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Bureau of Lost Things (Theatre 503) and NW (BBC/Mammoth Screen).

Karen Fishwick made her RSC debut playing Juliet in 2018. Previous credits include Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (National Theatre of Scotland/Live Theatre). Her other credits include Glasgow Girls (NTS/Citizens), Hansel and Gretel (Citizens Theatre), The Caucasian Chalk Circle, A Christmas Carol (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), Badults (BBC Three), James Kirk’s Comedy Blaps, The Illuminati (The Comedy Unit) and Tides and Telegrams (for The Winter Tradition).

The professional cast also includes: Afolabi Alli (Paris); Donna Banya (Gregory); Stevie Basaula (Sampson); Ishia Bennison (Nurse); Katy Brittain (Friar John/Apothecary); Raif Clarke (Peter); Beth Cordingly (Escalus); Paul Dodds (Montague); Josh Finan (Benvolio); Karen Fishwick (Juliet); Andrew French (Friar Laurence); Bally Gill (Romeo); Mariam Haque (Lady Capulet); Michael Hodgson (Capulet); Charlotte Josephine (Mercutio); John Macaulay (Cousin Capulet); Tom Padley (Balthasar); Sakuntala Ramanee (Lady Montague); Raphael Sowole (Tybalt) and Nima Taleghani (Abraham).

The professional cast are joined by young people from across the UK aged 12 – 18 who share the role of the Chorus. All 140 young people who participated in Romeo and Juliet are students in the RSC’s existing network of Associate Schools across the UK.

The BBC Culture in Quarantine broadcast of Romeo and Juliet features young chorus members from Hall Green Secondary School, Birmingham.

The Associate Schools Programme is the RSC’s partnership programme with regional theatres and schools across England. The ambition of the Associate Schools Programme is to bring about a significant change in the way young people experience, engage with, and take ownership of the work of Shakespeare. Through the programme teachers learn to explore Shakespeare with their students in the way actors do in a rehearsal room, using dynamic, active approaches. The programme is open to secondary, primary and special state schools in England and the RSC seek to recruit schools that serve areas of relatively high socio-economic deprivation.

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