‘O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ Oh- your seducing a West German woman on the secret instructions of the East German Stasi circa 1978…This is the setting and context of ‘The Romeo Initiative’ by Trina Davies currently playing at the Cultch. Sound intriguing? Both Espionage and emotion run thick throughout this play, confronting and displaying the brutal honestly and hardships of both…
Set during the Cold War, in both East and West Berlin, the story opens with a seemingly chance encounter of two strangers while vacationing on the Black Sea Coast. They part ways and soon reconnect in the city, forming a fast growing long distance relationship. She: a government secretary. He: an aid worker continually based away for long stretches of time. Or so he has her believe…
In fact he is part of a specialized initiative to collect information from his lover- a woman who has been targeted from the start due to her position and profile; as a single and vulnerable woman, and a secretary with access to extremely pertinent information – she fits the bill perfectly. She is completely blind to the situation, committing fully to the man, the relationship and the long distance circumstances, before a knock on her door from the police sends her life into complete disarray.
The story is based on actual events that took place during the Cold War – woman in government positions were targeted by men that meticulously studied and swooned them for the purposes of collecting information from their organizations. It is an interesting time in history, and certainly a fascinating operation – one which I personally was not aware of, and which makes for a dramatic retelling. Trina Davies states in the programme’s playwrights notes the extensive investigations she put into researching this initiative and the facts surrounding this period- I can only imagine the time and effort this must have taken.
Historical events are often the subject of dramatizations; battle scenes and rescue missions usually make for entertaining and engaging movies while other recreations are best told through the medium of theatre. This story works so well in its context as a theatrical production because of the depth of the characters demonstrated. Trina has developed them carefully, exposing their complexities and conflicting consciences in regards to their moral dilemmas, beliefs and aspirations.
You are thus presented with three emotionally empathetic people- avoiding the categorically ‘good’ and ‘evil’ classifications. A thought driven process and passion is evident within each character’s actions resulting in honourable behavior within their own perceptions. The lovely use of flashback provided the audience with a new perspective on certain events within the play and gave us a glimpse at the reality of each situation. I found the overall experience to be thought provoking and truthful.
After all- if nothing else- theatre should always be truthful right?
Disclaimer: As a theatre blogger for GVPTA, my ticket was provided free of charge to this production. That being said, opinions and statements made are my own. This is not a review, but a post meant to promote discussion within the Vancouver Theatre Community. GVPTA supports its member companies.