Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers in red for Romeo and Juliet

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Director Fires Back at Those Angry Over West End Casting

Racists have made their voices loud and clear over the casting of a new production of Romeo and Juliet on the West End. Those voices are just uninformed takes on a fictional story from Williams Shakespeare that they are using as a racist dogwhistle but they are loud about it.

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The casting for Jamie Lloyd’s Romeo and Juliet was announced with Tom Holland taking on Romeo Montague and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers playing Juliet Capulet. It is exciting to see a new production of the classic Shakespeare play getting this much buzz before it is even staged because it is, arguably, the show people know the most. A bunch of racist trolls, however, let everyone know that they know nothing about Romeo and Juliet and they just want to be racist against Amewudah-Rivers.

It got to the point where Lloyd and company have had to release a statement about the racist abuse that Amewudah-Rivers was receiving online. “This must stop. We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment. We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported. Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities.”

I am beyond proud of the Jamie Lloyd company for standing up for its star and protecting Amewudah-Rivers in this way. She’s making her West End debut and I am so very excited to see her and Tom Holland shine as Romeo and Juliet in the piece. The racists who are simply made that a Black woman is playing a prominent role have taken to making this about “history” and it really shows that they don’t know anything other than hate in their hearts because this play isn’t a true story.

Turning to history about a fictional play is a choice

Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet
(20th Century Fox)

Many of these so-called “fans” of Romeo and Juliet who seem so concerned for historical accuracy have been pointing to the Baz Luhrmann movie Williams Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet as their beacon. I guess because Leonardo DiCaprio is Italian? (We all know it’s not even that deep—it’s just because it is the most recent adaptation and Romeo and Juliet were both white.)

But that version very famously has Harold Perrineau playing Mercutio, who wears women’s clothing and is the embodiment of everything these bigots hate. So it’s certainly a choice to use that as your beacon of “history.”

This all boils down to racists being mad that a Black woman is playing Juliet. You can cry about history (although if you want that, then two men should be playing Romeo and Juliet to make it accurate to Shakespeare’s own production) but what we all know is that you’re just a racist. I’m proud of the Jamie Lloyd company for not letting them talk this way about Francesca Amewudah-Rivers. I hope that when the production reportedly transfers to Broadway, she comes with it because I want to see her shine as Juliet!

If you think that Romeo and Juliet needs to be “historically accurate,” you should not get to have an opinion on Shakespeare. Hope that helps!

(featured image: Jamie Lloyd Company)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.