Camden Fringe 2012
Festival: Camden Fringe
Chilean playwright and director Constanza Hola delivers a visceral insight into a woman torn in two, in this amusing and well-staged show. Withering put-downs and an all-Queen soundtrack make for a crackling hour.
A red duvet lying in front of the stage suddenly starts thrashing wildly and the entire front row of the audience nearly lose their drinks. So begins an intriguing and unusual hour from Blame the Chileans!, a Latin American-British theatre company. We start with Blanca (Cornelia Baumann), a woman trapped by low self-esteem, hoping that if she keeps her head down good things will come to her, and she’ll get the relationship she always dreamed of. Homebound and comfortably clothed, she is the exact opposite of Estela (Sarah Jayne-Harris), who launches on to the stage with confident sexuality. The two girls taunt each other over their respective attitudes to The Man (Sebastian Concha), and trade barbs hewn from the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody.
The show succeeds primarily because of the writing, which is tight and sharp with savage put-downs; Hola has the characters tearing strips off each other as they probe their emotional foundations. This is wonderfully realised by the actors – Jayne-Harris particularly looks like she’s having the time of her life, and with good reason: I don’t know any actors who wouldn’t relish the chance to perform what we’ll call ‘the cock monologue’. Baumann commits wonderfully as the introvert who finds her steel throughout the play, and I was genuinely impressed with her ability to put away the yoghurt. The Camden Head isn’t the most sympathetic of spaces for this kind of theatre, but they used what they had intelligently.
Shows at the more experimental end of the fringe spectrum can often lose themselves to navel-gazing, but the heightened and absurd elements employed here largely served the work, and I was struck by the depth of debate on stage. Whether you view yourself as a Greek heroine or are too riddled with Catholic guilt to communicate with anyone is a neat spin on the unstoppable force/immovable object trope.
The press release for this show asks the question “’I’ and ‘Me’ against each other, ego and super-ego overlapped. Two women, one life, but when one threatens the other’s sanity, who will win?” Without wishing to give away the ending, this seems a slightly obvious or unnecessary hook, and might just be overcooking it a bit. Or perhaps my shadow is denser than I know. It’s a minor quibble. This was an interesting and enjoyable show, and the audience were clearly behind it.