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The Theatreguide.London Review

Latin American Theatre Festival
St. Andrew Church Crypt      Autumn 2007

An ambitious project of bringing three contemporary plays from Mexico, El Salvador and Argentina to the London fringe offers an opportunity whose interest should not be limited to students of those cultures.

Two of the three one-acters (performed in rotating repertory, two each evening) are world premieres, and all are UK premieres.

From Argentina, Fabian Politis' Sepia Dreams depicts the predicament of a couple who are literally each the person of the other's dreams, when reality has trouble living up to the dream.

Another writer might have played this for comedy, but Politis treats it seriously, exploring the passion and pain of a can't-live-with-you-can't-live-without-you relationship.

This production doubles the two roles, one couple (Laura Brauer and Rob Carragher) acting in Spanish, the other (Mark Duncan and Kirsten Hazel Smith) in English, their scenes picking up from each other and overlapping a bit, so that each language covers perhaps 70% of the text.

While obviously sacrificing some moment-to-moment clarity for the monolinguists in the audience, this does effectively compound the emotional intensity.

Director Daniel Goldman keeps the emotional line clear throughout while making particularly inventive and expressive use of a difficult long and narrow playing space.

In Alvero Menen Desleal's Black Light the severed heads of two executed prisoners carry on a conversation that is alternately comic, philosophical and political in a mix that is uniquely and recognisably Latin American.

This award-winning El Salvadorian play has obvious debts to Beckett in the visual image and to Ionesco in some of the absurdist word play, but Desleal's voice is his own, and the remarkably ungory and unmacabre play is an opportunity to slip in among the jokes some serious thoughts about freedom of thought and the true nature of revolution.

With only their heads showing, actors Gwilym Lloyd and Rob Witcomb create fully developed and attractive characters, supported by Mark Duncan as a politically-minded blind man who joins their conversation. Sarah Norman directs with a vitality that overcomes the inevitably static staging.

The third play, which I didn't see, is After Everything, by Mexican Luis Ibor, a Faustian tale of a woman who does what she has to do to regain her fading youth, and pays the inevitable price.

Gerald Berkowitz

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