This review is spoiler-free because you absolutely must go see Starcrossed. It has given the unnamed queer people who lived five hundred years ago a voice; it has told their untold story. And, it has given people who are queer the same epic love story as Romeo and Juliet. Although ending in fated tragedy, Starcrossed is a triumph.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Directed by Philip Wilson, Starcrossed is performed at the atmospheric Wilton’s Music Hall – an appropriate venue as Shakespeare’s plays were first performed just across the river. Its wooden stage is reminiscent of The Globe, and the play was very RSC-esque in their staging and minimal set. The addition of singing and instruments added chemistry and romance to the play.

Starcrossed, written by Rachel Garnet (to whom I bow down), was conceived as a university assignment that called for an adaptation of a well-known work of literature which kept the original’s integrity. This is the ingenuity of the play; it mirrors the themes in Romeo and Juliet – love, honour, and family duty. It’s just the characters Tybalt and Mercutio, instead of Romeo and Juliet, who bring about these themes. 

Starcrossed isn’t a rewrite; it’s a retelling. The events of Romeo and Juliet are still happening; we’re just getting to dive into the world beyond their love story. It asks the question “Why does Romeo and Juliet’s story get told, but not Tybalt and Mercutio’s?” The play is written in Shakespearean English (including iambic pentameter), and I sometimes wasn’t sure which was Garnet’s writing and which was Shakespeare’s. Garnet cleverly played with Romeo and Juliet’s iconic lines (e.g. “What’s in a name?” and “It was the nightingale, and not the lark,”) and gave them to Tybalt and Mercutio. Yet, in addition to those witty allusions, she gave them their own beautiful metaphors and wordplays.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Gethin Alderman (The Player) was an absolute joy to watch. He superbly played the roles of Romeo, Benvolio, Lord Capulet and Montague, Friar Lawrence, Count Paris, Juliet, and added character Salvatori (Tybalt’s father). He was able to provide comic relief one moment and be completely serious the next. His added elements of breaking the fourth wall and changing the set with a sly smile to the audience were brilliant.

Connor Delves was captivating as the witty, light-hearted, and jaunty Mercutio. Delves was also able to show us Mercutio’s serious side and had a beautiful, sombre moment alone with the audience where he lamented over the way he and Tybalt have to hide their love. Though he was heartbroken, he expressed his hope that lovers five hundred years from now will be able to be open with their love. 

Tommy Sim’aan (Tybalt) gave depth to a character most disregard. Garnet compassionately gave Tybalt a backstory, a reason for his anger. As he fell deeper in love, Tybalt’s guard slowly went down, and it was a beautiful thing to see the redemption of this widely disliked character. Sim’aan gave the most spellbinding monologue in the entire play. 

Credit: Pamela Raith

Starcrossed is a passionate, heart-breaking play that cries out in anguish for those who had and still have to hide their love for society’s sake. Yet, by its very existence and performance, it also provides hope and comfort. Five stars doesn’t do it justice. Buy your tickets now – the show ends June 25.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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