30 October 2013, Varsity Online Theatre Section
The staging of three of the best Latin American plays of the past 30 years was certainly an ambitious project, particularly as these three plays had not been seen in Britain before. What’s more, their themes span some of the most fundamental questions to humanity: life and death, the impact of totalitarian regimes on the individual, and the cult of celebrity and fame. The production was solid, with good performances which kept the audience engaged in the action and prevented it from dragging.
The plays are simply staged, with only a park bench or a few chairs as the backdrop for the action. This contrasted to the plots of the plays, which at times could feel ludicrous, but were carefully handled by the performers who used this minimalist staging to create multi-faceted and sometimes multiple characters.
In the first of the plays, Secret Obscenities, two flashers appear to be vying for the bench outside a prestigious private girls’ school in Santiago. But the play subtly progresses into a statement about totalitarian politics, and the action is rarely all it seems. The play features some great comic turns from its two performers, Tris Hobson and Jake Thompson, particularly the former who deftly manoeuvres the comic aspects of this play alongside its more serious political statements. Nonetheless it is ultimately this coupling of performers who keep the audience in suspense about the direction of the play: the moments of co-operative interaction between the two performers are gripping.
The second play, Bony and Kim, was perhaps the play with the least novelty to offer its audience in terms of script. The two female lovers turn from “respectable” robbery to sensationalist sprees on fast food joints, all with the aim of gaining fame and renown. That said, Megan Dalton and Lili Thomas conveyed an irrepressible energy and vigour which managed to make theirs the most enjoyable play of the evening.
Looking into the Stands was without a doubt the most bizarre play of the evening. A mediocre matador (Margarita Milne), and the bull she is attempting to slay (Gabriel Cagan), fall into a discussion about the bull fight, life, love and death. The coexistence of their visceral dislike and mutual recognition of each other is convincingly portrayed by the two actors.
Overall, despite the challenging and often bizarre plots, solid performances brought to life these plays which may otherwise have felt contrived. Nonetheless, the content of plays was neither novel, nor did it seem uniquely Latin American, which may have made this production more exciting.