Shoot coward! Three plays from Latin America

Tue 29th October – Sat 2nd November 2013

reviews

Nicholas Jones

at 09:22 on 30th Oct 2013

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Karl Marx snogs Sigmund Freud in Chile, two Puerto Rican criminals become national heroes, and a bull and a matador talk life, love and honour. The Corpus Playroom is offering a triple bill of Latin American plays until now unseen in British theatres. Aside from this the three plays are totally unrelated and this, if I’m frank, that is the best way to approach them.

Secret Obscenities was the first and longest play of the evening. Beginning with what seemed to be a story of two flashers outside a girl’s school, it soon morphed, with a clunk, into what seemed to be a surreal meeting of Marx and Freud via an odd clown sequence. Although the performances had promise and did improve as the piece went along, their over eagerness to bring life and meaning to a convoluted and ultimately lifeless script caused the pace of the delivery to be too quick and forced. The pauses were rushed and the speech was too relentlessly loud yet the underlying issue with this play was a plot which failed to entertain and succeeded to confuse.

After the interval a two-woman piece ‘Bony and Kim’ came on. At first the same pace issues remained but as the minutes passed the actors fell with more ease into their characters. The two actors used the space inventively to play about 20 characters and tread the line reasonably well between sexuality and humour in this Puerto Rican Bonny and Clyde. The performances were a step up from the previous play and the actors moved from character to character reasonably seamlessly however the performances slightly lacked juice at times and the characterisation could have been slightly more defined. Moreover the plot was very fast paced for something so short and an element of control was lost. The piece as a whole, the shortest one, possessed undoubtedly a certain charm. The problem is however that the piece, although an improvement, was just missing that extra dimension to really captivate.

The final play certainly raised the bar however. It was a very enjoyable and inventive performance with Margarita Milne playing a wonderfully understated and note-perfect matador, handling timing and intensity in a noticeably more effective way than the previous plays. Gabriel Cagan is excellent as the bull, creating both a physical and emotional bond with the matador as the play went on. The story is interesting, tense and even at times quite thoughtful, marked with a real intensity, Looking into the Stands is certainly the saving grace of the evening. Their physical performance twinned with the use of music and space gives the play a good tempo and ultimately makes it 45 minutes well spent.

However with the regards to the evening as a whole, it is very much a split evening. A somewhat laboured first half is redressed by the short but sweet Bony and Kim and is ultimately saved by an excellent Looking into Stands which leaves you in a much more satisfied mood than at the interval.

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Katie Fox

at 09:47 on 30th Oct 2013

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“Shoot Coward!” presents a triptych of Latin American drama, which two actors in each play. Minimalistic set design, juxtaposed tête-à-têtes and stark contrasts set down the potential for a night of high intensity performances. However, the plays varied considerably in levels of success, which perhaps intruded on the collective impressif so that whilst the night is definitely worthing seeing, individual viewings of the plays would perhaps be easier to appreciate.

In “Secret Obscenities”, Tris Hobson and Jake Thompson cut striking figures in contrasting black and white trenchcoats as two flashers who meet on a park bench. Little is initially clear in the course of the encounter between these two men and the ensuing exchange sees an interesting exploration of repression and gains a certain level of intensity with impressive use of space. However, this intensity (sometimes feverpitch) and a less than complimentary pace undercuts the performance; the two flashers remain to some extent silhouettes or even the caricatures they at one point profess themselves to be. Tempering of tempo would help to fine-tune this potentially provoking and disorientating piece. (Two stars)

The second play, “Bony and Kim” depicts the story of two Puerto Rican criminal which sees the challenge of managing pace in a two-person play met with impressive skill, executing lighthearted transitions between scenes and characters alike. At times the camaraderie between the two protagonists almost takes the tone of a netball team changing room, but the performances by Megan Dalton as Bony and Lill Thomas as Kim traverse this with infectious enthusiasm. Whilst there is tendency towards flippancy, with lines sometimes falling short of realising their full potential, Dalton’s clear cut vocals, and Thomas’s husky tones creates a contrast that interplays powerfully with their use of physical symmetry. (Three stars)

The crowning glory of the night was without a doubt the final piece: “Looking Into The Stands”, a theatrical meditation on life and death. In this masterful portrayal of the final conversation between a matador and the opposing bull, the issues of identity, love and demise are explored. Gabriel Cagan’s “Florentino” (as he poignantly reminds “El Nino”) is an overwhelming achievement; incorporating tenderness, philosophy and even sexuality into his performance, somehow without undermining his brooding physical presence as bull, to great effect. In the Plaza de Toros, as on stage, Margarita Milne’s “El Nino” matches Cagan’s “Florentino”’s performance at every level allowing for an insightful exploration of power and mercy. Witty and moving, perhaps the piece’s only shortcoming was not fully maximising its choreographic and musical promise. It does, however, remain, nonetheless an impressive and insightful piece and well worth watching(despite any questions raised about the spectatorship of bullfighting itself). (Four stars)

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