“I bloody miss you,” is the first thing Josh O’Connor says to his Romeo & Juliet co-star, Jessie Buckley. The in-demand actors lovingly reconnect as only good friends can before our conversation begins about their work on the stage/screen hybrid performance of Shakespeare’s classic. We have seen so many versions of Romeo & Juliet, so why another one? When you have such passionate chemistry like O’Connor and Buckley share, it’s obvious.
PBS’ newest iteration of the doomed lovers was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic in just 17 days and it’s a compelling mashup of stage performance and film. It opens with actors walking into a space to rehearse a Shakespeare play, but that artifice falls away by the time the romantic tragedy concludes. It’s almost as if we witness the rehearsal, tech, and live performances in a matter of 90 minutes.
O’Connor and Buckley excitedly talk about the intimacy and immediacy of theater–something they had to work around in a completely new way with the pandemic protocols in place. They took full advantage of the day when negative test results came back as if it might be the last time they get to work on the material. When you watch a live performance of theater, the reaction you project back to the audience is immediate. It’s palpable. The pandemic almost took that away completely, but Buckley and O’Connor make a familiar story feel so alive and vital.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download