In Trevor Nunn’s clear and unfussy production, the doomed lovers were played by Ian McKellen and Francesca Annis, while Michael Pennington was a memorable Mercutio.

A tearful young woman in nightdress embraces a young man in light full-sleeved shirt on a wooden balcony
Lovers parting: Juliet (Francesca Annis) and Romeo (Ian McKellen), 1976, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Reg Wilson © RSC Browse and license our images


Nunn's production of Romeo and Juliet launched the 1976 season at Stratford-upon-Avon. In a bold move, designers Chris Dyer and John Napier transformed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's proscenium arch stage into an Elizabethan-style playhouse. The acting space was surrounded by wooden galleries, seating the audience. The single fixed set was used for all the season's productions, so the balcony for Romeo and Juliet was simply an extension of one of the wooden-frame tiers. Lit by spotlights, the uncluttered acting space contained a few stools and movable props which kept the action fluid.


Ian McKellen's Romeo was "tormented by love, and in a world of unfettered masculinity" while Francesca Annis' Juliet "offered a counterpoint of reflection and self-command" Dominic Cavendish 'Leading Ladies: five RSC performances to remember', 25 March 2006 (Telegraph).


In April 2011, Royal Mail celebrated the RSC's 50th anniversary by issuing a new set of ten stamps commemorating key productions. The '£1.10' stamp featured Ian McKellen and Francesca Annis in Trevor Nunn's 1976 Romeo and Juliet.

Wooden sets and traditional costumes

Chris Dyer designed the sets and costumes for the production. In the gallery below you can see costumes worn by Ian McKellen as Romeo and Francesca Annis as Juliet, as well as production photos showing the sets.

Theatre programme for Romeo and Juliet 1986 with black ink handwritten title like signature on white background



Francesca Annis - Juliet

Ivan Beavis - Montague

John Bown - Chorus

Dennis Clinton – Friar John

Brian Coburn – Unnamed parts, Watch

Lea Dregorn - Lady

Richard Durden - Paris

Susan Dury - Lady

Richard Griffiths - Peter

Pippa Guard - Lady

Judith Harte – Lady, Lady Montague

Greg Hicks - Balthasar

David Howey – Musician, Sampson

Griffith Jones - Escalus

Marie Kean - Nurse

Ian McKellen - Romeo

Michael Pennington - Mercutio

Clyde Pollitt – Apothecary, Unnamed parts

Duncan Preston - Abraham

Leonard Preston – Gregory, Unnamed parts

Roger Rees - Benvolio

Barbara Shelley – Lady Capulet

Paul Shelley - Tybalt

Keith Taylor – Musician, Unnamed parts

Norman Tyrrell – Old Capulet

David Waller – Friar Laurence

Paul Whitworth – Paris’s Page

Jacob Witkin – Musician, Unnamed parts, Watch

John Woodvine - Capulet

Peter Woodward - Page



Director – Trevor Nunn

Designer - Chris Dyer

Lighting designer – Clive Morris

Music – Stephen Oliver

Choreographer – Laverne Meyer

Fight arranger – Robert Anderson


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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