The Sala Verdi brings a season of Latin America theatre to Montevideo. First up is Teatro Matacandelas, from Medellin in Colombia. Theirs is a defiantly Brechtian theatre with a Victorian Gothic twinge. I can’t follow all of it. The story deals with a presumably fictional philosopher, Fernando Gonzalez. He stands for mayor and is rejected. He lives on the finca that will later belong to Pablo Escobar. He has a curious affair with a Frenchwoman when he spends time in Marseilles as a counsel.
Above and beyond the quixotic narrative, there’s a makeshift theatre practice at work. In much the same way as last night’s Henry 4/5 in the Solis, a chorus appears at the start urging the audience to use their imagination to convert the empty space into the valleys of Antioquia or a Mediterranean port. Harsh lights isolate spaces on the stage for the performers to inhabit. The acting has a heightened, declaratory hue. The philosopher barks out his thoughts, as do many of those he meets along the way. Scenes shift rapidly. Music starts to punctuate proceedings. About an hour in, things become more and more gothic. A version of the devil appears, bathed in red light, emanating a powdery glow. Later the whole of the Catholic church takes over. The theatre is bathed in incense and smoke. There’s so much smoke that the alarm goes off. But the philosopher’s oratory style drowns it out. There’s a deliberate sense of ramshackle chaos on stage. Jesus makes an appearance and you’ve got no idea what’s going to happen next.
Teatro Matacandelas create a rough theatre out of nothing which appears to be influenced by Brecht, would be admired by Brook and yet also emanates out of the rhythms and customs of Medellin. It’s vibrant, non-naturalistic and full of the unexpected, even if to the non-native speaker there are moments which are plain baffling. The final words of Fernando González are read out by the whole cast in a hyped up final scene, books being ripped to pieces, like something out of a lost work by Blaise Cendras.