Thursday, 17 February 2011

our private life (w pedro miguel rozo, d lyndsey turner)

This afternoon the following quote from Cortazar arrived via twittersphere: "pero quién sabe si todo eso lo decía o solamente lo pensaba". Rozo's play deals, ostentatiously, with the division between thought and word, suggesting that in a more modern environment, people become more adept at concealing their thoughts, something which in older times, in more basic communities, were as exposed as the words that people used. This is an engaging, if not completely original idea. Part of the pleasure of watching this English language production was seeing the way British actors, schooled as they are now in naturalism, dealing with the writer's presentation of their characters' thoughts, which are, essentially asides. Asides are a key component of 16th, 17th, and 18th century theatre. The ascendancy of film has lead towards the domination of naturalism, which has no space for the aside. The spoken thought is now consigned to the margin in British theatre.

Not, however in Latin American theatre, or what little I may have seen of it. Rozo's play, in common with the work of Uruguayan authors such as Calderon, Sanguinetti and Morena, revels in the theatricality of the aside, as the actors establish a complicity with the audience. Some of the play's actors seem to have gained more of a grasp of of it than others. Adrian Schiller, in particular, as the devious but charming psychiatrist and Bolano lookalike, seemed to delight in unveiling his hypocrisy, his performance helping to set the tone once the play had got past a slightly stilted opening section.

The family, that cauldron of secrets and lies, is the perfect domain for this style of combative theatre. Rozo investigates the duplicity of a would-be middle class family with some verve. Again, there were moments when the play struggled to engage with the move beyond naturalism. This is a heightened, perhaps expressionist style of theatre (which pays its dues to the telenovelas Rozo also writes). It requires pace, verve and variation in order to be true to the writing's rhythms rather than the search for emotional truth. (Not for nothing is Berkoff one of the more popular British authors in Latin America.) At times the play really hit its stride, whilst at others it seemed to flag, although it's likely that the timing will improve as the play runs.

If Rozo's play doesn't have the theatricality of La Munequita or Ararat, it's still refreshing to see the production engage with a contrasting theatrical style, a reminder perhaps of the flair of London's Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre rhythms. The space between word and thought is so simple to explore in theatre and offers up vast psychological and dramatic potential, something that can counteract the predictable and marry tragedy with bitter humour. So often I left the best productions I saw in Latin America with the feeling that the theatre there contained something more visceral and adventurous than our more studied methods of creating plays. This may well be a romantic and absurd generalisation, but if it has any basis in fact then there are flashes of these differences to be denoted at the Court's upstairs space in its production of Rozo's acerbic play.

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