Waiting For Romeo Reviews


20th January 2009

“Well,” said the lady beside me, uncrunching herself at the end from her leaning-forward concentration, “that was far more gripping than most plays.” She wasn’t wrong. Writer Sarah Grochala skilfully stuffs her pitch-black comedy with numerous compelling elements.

Set in an unspecified war-ravaged city, the play focuses on two sisters. Raneen, heavily pregnant and fiercely practical, provides our way into the horrors of the world outside Talya’s cosy flat. Talya, however, has divorced herself from reality, waiting inside, dressed for Mr Right. When a stranger eventually turns up, both sisters are in for a shock.

There are some lovely sharp turns in Nina Brazier’s fleet-footed production and two stand-out performances. As Talya, Lucinda Holloway beautifully suggests a bewildered trainee princess from a Disney film who has woken up and found herself in a war zone with only her beloved self-help books for company. Beatrice Curnew’s Raneen is a riveting life-force, whose warm, earthy humour stops short of concealing her deep love for her infuriating sibling.

Grochala never tells us where we are but, for 70 intense minutes, we are there entirely.


FOUR STARSMartin Lenon
14th August 2006

WAITING for Romeo makes EastEnders look like a comedy sketch show. It's bleak, dark and depressing - and utterly riveting. Set during a war in an unnamed country, the play found humour wherever it could, often in ugly places.

Recalling aspects of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, the story centred around two sisters and a fugitive sniper. As the play opened, Talya, quirkily played by Diana Eskell, was sitting reading a self-help book, while counting the seconds between the flash and bang of bombs going off.

She was terrified to leave her flat for fear of being bombed or shot. Her heavily pregnant sister, Raneen, bullish and practical, and played with relish by Nicola Harrison, tried to coax Talya from the safe prison her flat had become.

Talya, deluded by her books into believing that "the right man" might knock at the door at any moment, became angry, when Raneen threw part of her "man-attracting shrine" out of the window. As they left the flat to try to get it back, the sniper, played with roguish charm by Jamie Brough, climbed in through her window to hide from his pursuers.

As the plot unfolded, the narrative explored the darkest, cruellest qualities of each of the characters and still found room for humour, however black. Like Ibsen's play, the inevitable conclusion was far from happy.

If humour during wartime serves as a distraction, then here it served to focus the audience's attention on the appalling behaviour to which these characters had been driven by war and fear. Actions and attitudes which would normally repulse, seemed natural and even amusing. For an hour, the audience seemed to be immersed in the story.

Sarah Grochala's unflinching script was enthralling, matched only by an excellent and committed performance by the fine cast.


Thom Dibdin
18th August 2006

Bleak beyond despair, Sarah Grochala’s new play for Widsith depicts love and obsession in a time of extremity. Diana Eskell, as Talya, preens and keeps herself in perfect readiness for the lover she knows will one day return to her. Outside her apartment, civil war rages. Her only contact with the world is her pregnant sister, Raneen (Nicola Harrison), who brings her food. Raneen has, herself, romanticised her life by remembering the silent rape which resulted in her pregnancy, as the perfect, inspirational moment of pure love.

Nina Brazier’s direction brings the dichotomy of the sisters into stark relief while outside the war rages on, thanks to excellent sound design by David Gregory. The creation of the external reality is crucial to the success of Jamie Brough’s arrival as a soldier on the run. At first his interloping is comic as he seeks to become the man Talya yearns for. But when recognised by Raneen as her rapist and later confessing to being an enemy sniper, all comedy drains away.

Three comfortably naturalistic performances ensure that this moves smoothly along, with Eskell and Harrison working particularly well together. Rebecca Vincent’s set serves well but the real power here is in the script.


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