Starcrossed by Rachel Garnet. Wilton’s Music Hall, Grace Alley, London E1 to 25 June 2022. 5*****. William Russell.

Tom Stoppard got there first, but like him Rachel Garnet has spotted that Shakespeare has characters in his plays who have lives of their own, in this case Mercutio and Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet. She crafted a splendid tale which sounds like something Shakespeare could have written telling what might have happened had these scions of the rival houses of Capulet and Montague instead of squabbling fallen in love. We know it isn’t going to end happily but finding out how the inevitable comes about is diverting theatre with terrific performances by the cast of three. Director Philip Wilson also has something to do with the success of the evening as what we see on stage is inventive and often surprising. Praise also for the fight director Haruka Kuroda as when Mercutio and Tybalt fence it is spectacular to watch. But it is the performances that enchant. Connor Delves is a splendid bantam cock of a Mercutio, a strutting lad with a small guitar and glorious love lock curl on his forehead who knows he is God’s gift to the right man and decides that man is Tybalt. Not that Tybalt puts up too much resistance. Tommy Sim’aan creates a sultry butch guy who is clearly not quite as tough as he hopes the world thinks he is. The result is a courtship much more entertaining than the one which dominates the source play and their morning after scene is hilarious as Mercutio has to conceal his overnight guest from his valet who has come to dress him.
Add the lanky Gethin Alderman who plays everyone else – including a remarkable Juliet and the Capulet and Montague parents at the same time – and has a gift for comedy which allows him to breach that fourth wall and take the audience into his confidence and you have as good a cast as one could hope to find. Garnet has also cleverly avoided the traps people who pen gay plays tend to fall into and uses the plight of our lovers to argue the cause of gay love while including nice touches like when they wonder whether in 500 years time things might be easier. Actually I don’t think they were in too much trouble in Verona anyway but it was important to be butch at least as far as the outside world was concerned.
Wilton’s should have a hit on its hands. Unmissable? Well nothing really is, but this is one production which ought to be collected.

The PLayer: Gethin Alderman.
Mercutio: Connor Delves.
Tybalt: Tommy Sim’aan,

Director: Philip Wilson.
Set & Costume Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting Designer: Simisola Majekodunmi.
Music & Sound Designer: Harry Blake.
Fight and Intimacy Director: Haruka Kuroda.
Production photograph. Pamela Raith

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