The Verona Institute in the not too distant future
As the music slowly builds in the darkness, the lights suddenly reveal a silk curtain which no sooner has it been seen falls to the floor of the stage to reveal a crime scene. The bloody bodies of Romeo and Juliet are seen lying together on a mortuary slab.
A bell rings and the stage is suddenly filled with people wearing androgynous white ‘uniforms’ Bright lights showcase the inner sanctum of the Verona Institute. Male and female inmates are clearly divided with separate spaces for the ‘boys’ and 'girls’. The action within is overseen by the presence of Tybalt, the Guard, a powerful, menacing and unpredictable presence. It is clear that the institute’s residents are nervous around him.
The space is filled with activity as the inmates carry out the repetitive work/labour activities that have been enforced by those in charge, before collapsing exhausted on the floor.
Another bell sounds, signifying a welcome break for the inmates. They get up and begin to disperse, at their leisure, to different parts of the room. Tybalt approaches one of the female inmates (Frenchie), though she clearly does not wish to be the object of his focus. Led by Juliet, some of the other girls challenge Tybalt, and the girl is ‘set-free’. Frustrated by Juliet’s interference Tybalt quickly changes tack and singles out Juliet. Much to the anger and frustration of all the other inmates, Tybalt takes Juliet to a private room – well out of sight of her concerned friends who anxiously await her return.
Staff members, a Nurse and an Orderly take the morning register and prepare for the start of another day at the Institute. Each inmate is given a dose of medication, which they accept without resistance before setting about their daily tasks.
The inmates grab their chairs and prepare for a group therapy session. In one semi-circle sits the boys, overseen by the Orderly, whilst the girls sit in the other circle, under the strict influence of the Nurse. The Orderly and the Nurse strut about with their clipboards, and as the inmates begin to share their stories they grow more frenetic and anguished as they have the opportunity to share their suppressed feelings.
One by one they drag themselves and their chairs a way, just as a whistle signifies that the therapy session is over for today.
With the rest of the staff and the inmates out of the way Tybalt continues his emotional and physical abuse of Juliet. Juliet physically struggles against being forced into his room alone and is relieved to be interrupted by a group of her fellow female inmates and the Nurse, both of whom distract Tybalt. But only momentarily. As they disappear out of sight he continues his abusive behaviour towards Juliet.
Frenchie, who has been frantically searching for Juliet since the group therapy session finished, catches sight of her friend and watches on in horror from under the staircase. As Tybalt makes to carry Juliet into the private quarters of his room, Frenchie gives chase, but to no avail.
The door closes on Frenchie and she runs around in sheer panic as she considers what fate may be waiting for Juliet.
Frenchie hits a panic button before running away as a last-ditch attempt to put an end to Tybalt’s actions. Almost immediately Tybalt rushes back through the door carrying Juliet. Juliet attempts an escape but Tybalt is not about to give up and with her captured once again they disappear from sight once more.
Frenchie reappears and has spread the word about Tybalt’s assault on Juliet and has rallied support from the other inmates, who are enraged. Lights flash and alarms sounds as the inmates kick up a frenzy within the institution. With their confidence buoyed by a sense of strength in numbers, the beginnings of something that could be likened to a ‘prison riot’ begins.
All of a sudden, an evidently distressed and traumatised Juliet appears from the door of Tybalt’s room. She has her top in her hands and the mental and physical pain she is experiencing is clear for all to see. Behind her, in the doorway, leans a half-undressed and an ‘exhausted but satisfied’ looking Tybalt.
Cheers can be heard and camera-flashes light the gloom as three figures appear at the entrance to the Verona Institute. Senator and Brie Montague wave ‘robotically’ to the gathered crowds, whilst their son, Romeo, follows on reluctantly behind. Upon arrival they are greeted by Governor Escalus - the head of the Verona Institute. It is clear that Romeo’s odd behaviour is a cause of annoyance and discomfort for his parents and they have brought him to the Institution to be ‘cured’.
While the Governor walks the Montagues around the grounds, three boys arrive to strip Romeo of his own clothes and dress him in the plain white trousers, top and shoes that are issued to all inmates. Mercutio, Benvolio, Balthasar take great delight in giving Romeo the run-around and playing him up, for laughs.
Left alone momentarily, and wearing just his underpants, Romeo does his best to make himself invisible against the back wall as he hears Juliet approach, immediately struck by her beauty. As Juliet performs a mournful solo it is clear that she is still nursing the pain of her recent abuse. Consumed by her own pain and sadness she does not spot Romeo and exits when she hears the Governor and The Montagues return.
The boys reappear too and finish dressing Romeo in his uniform before Romeo’s parents bid him a formal and cold farewell.
One by one the inmates appear in poorly fitting ‘party’ clothes. In stiff frocks, shirts and bow ties they prepare for the monthly social event by practising social dances that are clearly meant to be performed with a partner. They dutifully go through the steps looking more and more awkward as they dance alone – the boys on one side and the girls on the other – before they all exit the stage.
A bright shaft of light appears from the doorway and in steps Rev. Bernadette Laurence - the institute chaplain. As she ceremoniously lowers a huge mirror-ball she is joined by Mercutio, Benvolio and Balthasar, who have arrived to help her finish setting up for the ‘social’.
They affectionately wind the Reverend up and she accepts their teasing with good humour and warmth.
Romeo is introduced by Tybalt and Rev. Laurence gives Romeo a hearty welcome. The rest of the arrive and Rev. Laurence is delighted to see everyone, instantly encouraging the two sides to mix but as the young people do so they are warned off by the guards.
With the Reverend enthusiastically initiating a spell of partner dancing, whilst she accompanies them on the keyboard, the guards watch on uncomfortably as the inmates pair up. Whilst Tybalt reluctantly allows boys and girls to dance with one another, he will not allow Mercutio and Balthasar to partner up and pushes them apart.
Under the watchful eye of the guards the male-female duets continue, but they are incredibly stiff. Gradually the guards slope off to patrol elsewhere within the institute and as they do so the atmosphere begins to relax.
Romeo is without a dance partner, but suddenly spots Juliet, who has arrived late. Delighted, Romeo asks her to dance and they take to the floor, completely transfixed by one another.
Whilst the partners all take a rest from dancing, Mercutio, Balthasar and Benvolio dance with Rev. Laurence. They whoosh and whirl her around the stage before leading her away for a break, leaving the rest of the inmates unsupervised by any staff.
Finding themselves alone the inmates seize the opportunity to let go of their inhibitions. Mercutio dims the lights, the music changes and the stiff, awkward dancing from before is replaced with something much more animalistic, sensual and passionate.
As the tempo slows and the mirror ball spins, Romeo and Juliet find themselves partnered together. Everything drifts into a dream-like state as they lose themselves in the blissful presence of one another.
Briefly interrupted by the passing through of a guard, the inmates instantly revert to the clockwork like social dances they have been taught to dance. As he leaves the dream-state continues as Romeo and Juliet into and out of one another’s arms.
As the mood heightens some of the boys remove their shirts, and the inmate’s pent up frustrations are unleashed as they dance more and more urgently and intensively with one another. At last Mercutio and Balthasar can express their feelings for one another, as they too partner up.
A bell rings and the guards re-enter suddenly. Furious at what has happened they break the couples apart. Spotting Mercutio and Balthasar entwined on the floor together, Tybalt loses his temper and strikes Mercutio. Everyone, including Rev. Laurence, is subject to his anger and the boys and girls are quickly separated. He is outraged at seeing Juliet partnered with Romeo and kisses Juliet’s hand as if to stake his claim on her in front of all the inmates. The girls and boys exit, leaving just Tybalt and the Reverend. Overcome with his feelings of anger and frustration, and perhaps even hurt, sadness and desperation, he collapses to the floor in an apparent seizure.
He is briefly comforted by Rev. Laurence before he struggles off, clasping his head. Worried at what will become of everyone the Reverend herself rushes off, distraught that the social has been ruined.
Unbeknownst to everyone else, Romeo and Juliet had managed to hide themselves en-route back to their dormitories and are now dodging flashlights as guards patrol the corridors. They sneak past Rev. Laurence and finally make it outside, where they enjoy a brief sense of freedom as they get to know one another.
Knowing they must return to their dormitories before they are found out, they reluctantly say goodbye but not before stopping for a long-awaited and heartfelt kiss. It is clear that they are experiencing these feelings of love and intimacy for the first time in their lives and their lengthy kiss is only broken twice to catch their breath. Whilst kissing they twirl, intertwined across the space before finding themselves alone, almost instantly clearly longing for each other once more.