Thursday, June 05, 2014

A superb trilogy of Chilean drama in The MAC (until 14 June) #Chilogy

Three superb pieces of theatre running in The MAC at the moment. All looking at the political and social history of Chile and holding up a mirror to the issues we face on this island. You can read extended reviews on Slugger O'Toole.

It is estimated that over 3,000 Chileans went missing or were killed in the aftermath of the 11 September 1973 coup. As the audience loiter in the ruined concrete shell of the Tejas Verdes torture centre, leaning against concrete pillars, they hear the disturbing testimony of six women who explain their involvement in the disappearance of one young Chilean woman, Colorina. Over an hour, a series of monologues unravel the horror of the physical torture the “leftish revolutionary” endured. A military doctor tries to explain away the scurrilous rumours of abuse. A friends admits the circumstances in which she grassed on Colorina. A gravedigger relives the consequences of showing some humanity. The final scene is breath taking.

At the performance of Villa, the audience seated around an amphitheatre looking down at a circular table with three Chilean women who had been singled out to decide on how to transform the former Villa Grimaldi secret torture centre. Beginning with a vote and it quickly becomes apparent that there are no obvious answers to the question of what to do with the now-demolished site. What will be most powerful? Reconstruct the villa and recreate the atmosphere of the barbaric torture centre? Or build a “big white box of a museum” on the site?

After the intermission, the desk and chairs are gone, replaced with a red carpet and a lectern for the second play, Discurso. Out strides President Michelle Bachelet to deliver an imagined bitter-sweet farewell speech at the close of her 2006-2010 presidency of Chile. Abandoning her prepared notes, the off-the-cuff reflection covers her journey through torture (“or not”) to power to change and now to “the centre of guilt”. She regrets - and questions - much.

The upstairs and downstairs theatres in the MAC have been reconfigured for the performances, making intimate and novel spaces for audiences to engage with the Chilean plays. Ciaran Bagnall set and lighting design amplify the performances.

A set of plays by Prime Cut which convey the horror that even one barbaric act produces. And the extended tragedy when the cover-up of the truth persists long beyond the lives of those directly affected. Forty years after the 1973 coup, Chile is telling its story. As we approach the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of events on this island, are we ready to face the truths about our situation?

Well worth a trip to The MAC to see the shows before the run finishes on 14 June. And if you fancy a binge, all three plays are running back to back on Saturday 7 and 14.

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