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Brighton Festival 2024

The Melancholy of the Tourist

Oligor y Microscopia

Genre: Installation Theatre, International

Venue: Brighton Dome Anita's Room


Low Down

A refreshingly analogue, intricate performance-installation that charms and challenges how we seek paradise. Where will your next holiday take you? What will you leave behind?



In 22 years of making shows this is the first time Spanish/Mexican collaboration Oligor y Microscopia have performed in the UK. Judging by the response to their premiere at Brighton Festival, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

If you’re a fan of intricate, crafted work that requires close listening and looking, and I am, this is the perfect show for you. Just make sure you sit near the front; unless you have really good vision you’ll miss some detail from the back row.

They describe it as ‘theatre of documentary objects’ and whilst some of those objects are things bought or found, many are made by the artists, Shaday Larios and Jomi Oligor. Miniature bundles of banknotes, a kiosk festooned with beach balls and umbrellas, little cigars that exhale smoke all find their place on a platform that builds scenes of destinations visited and memories unpacked.

A Heath-Robinsonesque construction behind the set projects slides that roll like 1950’s cine-film onto a curtained screen, with text translated from Spanish running above. Oligor and Larios move silently around the set in an elegant dance, moving and manipulating pulleys, wind up toys, shadows and cut-outs that explore the relationship between memories and legacy. “We don’t really know what we brought back with us and what stayed there” says an early caption. The couple discuss their time in Havana and Acapulco, digging beneath the popular tourist snaps: Old Woman With Big Cigar, Man Diving From High Cliff, questioning what these representations mean for the people snapped.

It leaves the audience questioning too. Cuba is a holiday hot-spot and endlessly photographable yet the Cubans scrape by and long for comfortable lives with new things. Acapulco, run by gangsters, its hotels abandoned and population living in fear, was once the go-to destination for Presidents and Hollywood stars – even the Shah of Iran visited to watch the diving boys. El Peque, one of the most famous, told the artists that he was always scared before a dive, except once when it was raining and no-one was there to watch.

As tourists we are complicit; we affect those we find curious in our need to store images and collect mementoes. The Melancholy of The Tourist, with its analogue, nostalgia-hued aesthetic reflects an age before everyone had a camera in their pocket and constantly shared pics.  A subtle soundtrack, strong on twangy guitar by Suetszu & Jayrope and softly spoken voices take us to each destination, with the sound of the sea never far away. We may drift into a magical little world, but we come away with a big picture.