In Bogdanov's bold modern-dress production, the Capulets and Montagues wore designer clothes, Tybalt drove a red sports car and Romeo committed suicide using a hypodermic needle.

A young man holds the hand of a young woman as they sit on some steps
Juliet (Niamh Cusack) and Romeo (Sean Bean), 1986, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images


Michael Bogdanov's highly political production satirised the 1980s 'yuppie' lifestyle. In this world, children could be regarded as another commodity - wealth and status were valued more than love. Juliet's father Capulet (Richard Moore) was a suited self-made tycoon, who summed up this materialistic society.

As the lovers, Sean Bean (Romeo) and Niamh Cusack (Juliet) were generally praised for playing emotional truth with simplicity and passion. Their genuine love stood in direct contrast with the values of their society.

Niamh Cusack explained this approach: “What makes Romeo and Juliet’s love so vivid… is the contrast with the hatred between the families. Juliet is not so much rebelling against her parents as discovering her own values. They don’t include 'making a good match', love as a business transaction to increase the power of the family." Interview with Lesley Thornton, Observer, 6 April 1986.


This production interpretation offered no reconciliation of families at the end of the play. Instead, after Juliet stabbed herself, there was a blackout and then the lights came up on Prince Escalus reading the prologue as a past event, flanked by two golden statues of Romeo and Juliet. Journalists and paparazzi rushed down the aisles of the auditorium to capture the sensational news. In this cynical exploitation, the lovers' tragedy had become just another commercial transaction.


The production was set in a modern north Italian city, suggested in Chris Dyer's set by a prevalence of gleaming marble and chrome. The set consisted of "a revolving central unit of white staircase and landings...backed by changing photographic blow-ups, huge and grainy, of Sloanes, clones, cops and bits of architecture" Michael Coveney, Financial Times, 10 April 1986.


Bogdanov's Verona was inhabited by rich youth like the glamorous black-leather clad Tybalt (Hugh Quarshie). When the sardonic Mercutio (Michael Kitchen) damaged Tybalt's flashy red sports car, it provoked a violent response, sealing the culprit's fate. After his duel with Romeo, the slain Tybalt was discovered sprawled across the bonnet of his beloved car. Instead of swords and daggers, the trendy Veronese youth used flick knives and chains.

In the following design gallery you see more images of Chris Dyer's sets and Ginny Humphrey's costume sketches.

In the streets of Verona, men of the Capulet and Montague households begin to argue...
Tybalt (Hugh Quarshie) is provoked by Mercutio (Michael Kitchen), Romeo and Juliet, 1986
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © RSC Browse and license our images



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Sean Bean - Romeo

Niamh Cusack - Juliet

Stanley Dawson – Friar John, Policeman

Robert Demeger – Friar Laurence

Dennis Edwards – Old Capulet

Jenni George - Lady

David Glover - Escalus

Lucy Hancock - Lady

Malcolm Hassall - Abraham

Cornelia Hayes - Lady

Martin Jacobs - Benvolio

Caroline Johnson - Lady

Michael Kitchen - Mercutio

Brian Lawson - Apothecary

Dilys Laye - Nurse

Timothy Luckett - Child

Donald McBride - Peter

Paul McGreevy - Child

Richard Moore - Capulet

Robert Morgan - Paris

Anna Nygh – Lady Capulet

Sean O'Callaghan - Gregory

Eileen Page - Lady Montague

John Patrick - Sampson

Stan Pretty – Escalus’ Aide

Hugh Quarshie - Tybalt

Patrick Robinson - Policeman

Philip Sully - Balthasar

Simon Townsend - Child

Daniel Wadhams - Child

Roger Watkins - Montague




Director – Michael Bogdanov

Designer - Chris Dyer

Costume Designer – Ginny Humphreys

Lighting Designer – Chris Ellis

Music - Hiroshi Sato


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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