“ An exuberant, manic combination of love, violence, and slapstick.”
—John Barry, City Paper, Baltimore USA
Bond Street Theatre and Theatre Tsvete, an award-winning puppet company from Bulgaria, created a compelling, non-verbal version of Romeo and Juliet during the Balkan Peace Project in 2000 in Kosovo.
The story addresses the tragedy of neighbor against neighbor, and yet takes no sides.
The play was presented in theatres throughout Kosovo, most of them riddled with bullet holes and in immense disrepair. We were thrilled that many former refugees recognized us from our performances in the refugees camps the year before.
We achieved more than we had imagined: women told us that they were struck by the image of Juliet at her wedding waiting for Romeo to return from the fight. Others were struck by the tragedy of unintended deaths. Others commented on the way that we used ordinary objects to their full theatrical potential; one director said, “there are no bounds to your imagination.”
Visual storytelling through images and symbolic actions is an exciting challenge. In our version of Shakespeare’s play, the wedding of Romeo and Juliet occurs on the stage at the same time as the duel between Mercutio and Tybalt. By playing the two events simultaneously, divided only by placement on the stage and lighting, the audience experiences Romeo’s personal struggle in choosing between love and violence, between his heart and his sense of duty to defend. This resonated with audiences in Kosovo very deeply, as it might resonate today.
Our play ends with a sense of renewal; the puppet spirits of Romeo and Juliet rise up from their bodies in an ethereal blacklight dance, become one, and vanish. The message of hope was not lost to this audience whose hope is that the spirits of their loved ones are at peace.
We also conducted workshops for actors, directors, social workers, other professionals, and students, and gave performances and workshops for Roma, Albanian and Serbian children in rural villages and towns throughout Kosovo.
“An inventive collection of theatrical techniques and skills — physical and dance-theatre, pantomime, acrobatics, circus, blacklight theatre, shadows, rituals and puppetry — attractive, spiritual and contemporary.”
“An instant hit… Laughter and applause punctuated the performance."
- Daniel Simpson, The New York Times
“Well done and surprising! How much effort, knowledge and talent were implemented to create this multicultural collaborative work. The Bulgarians were excellent.”
- Vladimir Kopicl, Festival Report, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
“Everything worked in perfect harmony, the physical staging, music, pantomime, jazz, comedy and other elements.”
- Mehmet Latifi, Fakti, Gjilan, Kosovo
“This ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was an extraordinary human tragicomedy. ...It gave the audience a special message of love, peace and tolerance between people.”
- Arif Muharremi, Koha Ditore, Prishtina, Kosovo
“This popular interpretation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’… brought a message of peace and tolerance to the audience who filled the Plata Mare in Sibiu.”
- Mariana Ciolan, Festivals, Sibiu, Romania
“Excitement was high as the 900 young people rushed into the theatre… For most of the audience, many of whom are refugees from war-torn Macedonia, this is the first time they will see a live theatre performance.”
- Michelle Sieck, for UNICEF—feature story on website