Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley will star in a new version of Romeo & Juliet filmed inside the National Theatre for television.
The stage spaces of the Lyttleton theatre will be temporarily transformed into a film studio for the first time, to create a new telling of Shakespeare’s tragic romance.
The Crown star and the Chernobyl actress were originally due to take on the roles for a stage version in the Olivier auditorium over the summer, directed by Simon Godwin.
The play, adapted by Emily Burns, has now been reconceived for the screen with a 90-minute running time.
Fisayo Akinade will play Mercutio, as was originally planned with the stage production, while Tamsin Greig has joined the cast of the film as Lady Capulet, alongside Deborah Findlay as the Nurse, Lucian Msamati as the Friar, Shubham Saraf as Benvolio, David Judge as Tybalt, Alex Mugnaioni as Paris and Ellis Howard as Sampson.
It will be shot over three weeks and will premiere in 2021 on Sky Arts channel, which went free-to-air in September.
Rufus Norris, director and joint chief executive of the National Theatre, said: “Realising the Lyttelton theatre would need to remain shut to audiences during this time has been really difficult and meant we found ourselves in a unique set of circumstances.
“I wanted to find a way to use that space to create something exciting and special for audiences, that utilised the exceptional skill and craft of the National Theatre’s teams, freelancers and creative associates, and that could reach as many people as we can.
“That’s all going to be possible with this brilliant film of Romeo & Juliet and, in collaboration with Sky Arts, PBS and No Guarantees, it will be seen across the UK and US.
“I’m delighted that Simon, Jessie, Josh and the team have joined us for a National Theatre first and are going to create a truly fresh film of Shakespeare’s enduring love story.”
Godwin added: “This has been a uniquely challenging time for the industry and so I have huge respect for Rufus and the team for meeting this challenge with creativity and deciding to use the Lyttelton theatre in this way for filmed work; I think it’s a genius idea and I’m honoured to be able to create the first film.
“I think I speak for myself, the creative team and the cast when I say how delighted we are to be focusing all our creativity into this version of Romeo & Juliet once more.
“Some ideas are staying, lots of new ones are coming in, I’m very excited about this new genre, combining film and theatre, and bringing together the remarkable talents of those industries.
“And the world will get to see Josh as Romeo and Jessie as Juliet, it had to happen!”
Rehearsals will start in November at the National Theatre, with filming beginning in December and the premiere expected to air in spring 2021.