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Without Verona Walls at the Bread & Roses Theatre

A brief review of a brief play. This kind of storyline might well have been considered, and even performed, elsewhere before, but it’s the first time I’ve come across something that asks what Romeo in Romeo and Juliet did – if anything – during his banishment from Verona. Did he just sit around and mope all day? (No. That would make for a very dull play indeed.) With time on his side, he attempts to be philosophical, even launching into the “To be, or not to be” speech from Act III Scene I of Hamlet, although it is punctuated by interruptions from other people, who have also presumably been ‘banished’.

Without Verona Walls
Without Verona Walls

Enough of an introduction is given to anyone who hasn’t, for whatever reason, seen, and/or read and/or read about Romeo and Juliet, and in all the absurdity, there are touches of realism that collectively provide a sense of quite how long Romeo’s banishment has lasted. It is hot, a fellow banished citizen tells Romeo (there were three actors on stage, although no programmes were available to the audience at the performance I attended). Yes it is, Romeo concurs, but it’s an Italian summer – of course it’s hot.

An early display of nudity whilst Romeo sings (and he sings well, by the way) doesn’t add much to the narrative, especially as only one of them had no clothes on. The nudity in Hair, for instance, is about personal freedom and defiance against the establishment. Here, it’s unrelated to what’s being sung and left me thinking, “So what?” Elsewhere, there’s talk of “working for the revolution”, though what this actually means remained unclear: who is revolting against whom, and for what purpose?

That said, there are some very enthusiastic performances in a briskly paced production. To say much more about what happens would be giving too much away – this brief but bonkers piece of theatre is, at the end of the day, very enjoyable. Short and sweet, and not a minute longer than it needed to be, there’s more action crammed into less than an hour than some shows manage in ninety minutes.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Romeo has been banished from Verona after killing the cousin of his forbidden lover, Juliet. In Mantua, he meets fellow exiles who are forced in isolation to consider suffering, loneliness, ice cream, nudity, and free will. An absurd tragicomedy with music, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Cast and Creatives
Brennen Amonett
John Harper
Juliana de Aragão

Without Verona Walls
play by Juliana de Aragão, Music and Lyrics by Brennen Amonett
directed by The Babel Manœuvre Company

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