Baz Luhrmann gave us his version of Romeo & Juliet in 1996. I remember my 10 year-old godson coming barreling into my house procaliming how fab and exciting this film was and had I ever hear of a fella called William Shakespeare?

Mr. Vince Connolly (God rest him) was my inspirational and extraordinary English teacher in secondary school. He was the man who let us know that it was okay for big strong men to appreciate beautiful language and even to be moved by it. [I remember his excitement many years later when I told him I was going to the Royal Shakespeare Company for presentation skills training]

But it was at that moment, with a 10 year-old babbling with excitement about a film he had just seen, that I understood the brilliance of Shakespeare – that his work could be enjoyed by illiterate 16th century peasants standing in the mud, as well as by scholars. That it could have equal appeal for a gifted 10 year-old and to those whose hearts Leonardo DiCaprio makes beat faster.

For anyone who doesn’t like the “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em” approach to presentation, I always recall the Prologue of Romeo & Juliet. Out steps Chorus, usually dressed in simple black and declaims the famous, “Two households, both alike in dignity …” speech. Chorus tells you the whole story [including the ending!] but does that detract one jot from what you then watch? It never has for me. So, by all means, tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; but do it really well, do it intriguingly, catch and hold their attention.


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How about Luhrmann’s news anchor approach to the Prologue?

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Or, for those who like a more visual style, how about Luhrmann’s somewhat more frenetic/kinetic delivery?

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DiCaprio was a great Romeo, so good I forgave him Titanic, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Beach. And while Clare Danes was a little indistinct for my ear, she was so lovely she made you realise why someone would be willing to die for Juliet. So, just because it’s Monday and I lurve you, this is the meeting scene at the Capulet party:

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