Sam Tutty on playing Romeo, appearing next to Derek Jacobi and being away from Evan Hansen
The performer's version of Romeo and Juliet is available to watch now
Sam Tutty has had a rollercoaster couple of years. Unveiled as the first West End Evan Hansen, he had his run in the show cut short by the pandemic (but not before picking up a raft of awards).
While the pandemic continues, Tutty has head over to the world of Shakespeare, performing in a CGI-laden version of Romeo and Juliet, shot in Covid-safe conditions, which is released today.
Chatting over the phone, Tutty explained how interesting the process was: "It was amazing to see myself perform with all those people – and when I say with, I mean in an edit with them." To comply with Covid conditions, performers would have their appearances masked together, layered to create a scene.
Seeing as Tutty comes from a world of theatre (where you have to create a world for yourself every night on stage), he had no issue with doing the same thing for the film's CGI sets: "It was my first time ever doing a green-screen performance – so I had to pretend my co-stars were there, which was a real challenge acting wise. But I've seen it and it just looks incredible. Sometimes we had to put tape up to make sure we had continuous eyelines."
Tutty had praise to give for his co-star Emily Redpath, Nick the director and editor / camera-man Ryan Metcalfe: "It's frightening how well he brings it all together. He's a powerhouse."
How did the performer go about tackling one of Shakespeare's most iconic roles? "We had about 12 days from rehearsals to the end of filming – so a lot of it was done overnight. It was really intense – we had a lot of plastic screens as dividers in the rehearsal room."
Were there influences for his Romeo? "Obviously I love Leonardo DiCaprio's performance but there's no way I can try and aspire to do that. So I just tried to place it in a very modern era and bring my own visuality to it." I point out, while Tutty can do Romeo, there's probably no chance DiCaprio could ever have done Evan Hansen.
A couple of intimate moments (almost a given for Romeo and Juliet) involved Tutty and co-star Redpath getting Covid tests ("Fortunately none of us ever tested positive").
The visual style for the film is striking – set inside an empty theatre auditorium at a time when venues are locked down. Tutty explains: "I like to think it taps into an undertone of the way the industry is today. There are a couple of scenes where I am sitting in empty stalls – it really echoes a Covid time, while also standing on its own as a narrative."
Not many performers these days get to ever say this, but Tutty is making his Romeo debut alongside stage hero Derek Jacobi – who takes on the role of Narrator. He explains how he found out: "They kept that very quiet so I only found out a few days ago!"
February has already been a busy time for Tutty – last weekend he also performed a belting version of "You Will Be Found" for the BBC – which is going to be on BBC iPlayer for a year. "It was the most beautiful set I've ever seen at the Palladium. It really was stunning. Such a privilege to perform alongside everyone."
Tutty also discussed returning to Dear Evan Hansen: "As soon as you take some away from someone, all they want to do is do that thing. It's sparked even more of an appreciation for theatre. Having time away from a character can really help you develop your performance."