Edinburgh Fringe 2011
You Need Me theatre company returns to Edinburgh after their 2009 sell-out run of Certain Dark Things. This year’s offering focuses on Juan, a Mexican immigrant on death row, and the sequence of events seven years prior that led him there.
‘Expecting life to treat you well because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to gore you because you are a vegetarian. The bull doesn’t give a shit.’
Juan lives in a trailer park in Spring Valley, Nevada, with his 15-year-old daughter Paulina. Juan and Paulina need only each other – until Juan falls for American girl, Christie, and Paulina finds herself involved with an older man.
It’s an imaginative production from director Emily Watson Howes. The very most is made of a minimal space. The actors deny the tiny black box of the studio and take their audience all sorts of places: the raked seating of the audience area becomes a mountainside when Christie takes Paulina rock-climbing, clambering up and over the rows; and the length of the auditorium is used to convey the insurmountable distance between the condemned Juan and the young English volunteer who tries to help him.
Music and mime are used to great effect, too. Instrumentalist Greg Hall provides onstage accompaniment on cello and guitar, and the cast, crouched low on the sidelines, cleverly create their own sounds effects, snickering and whispering into microphones like wee Latin American imps. Such organic creativeness lends the piece a gentle, eccentric beauty, which makes the unexpectedly shocking and violent conclusion all the more disquieting.
Theatrical but unpretentious, this is a well-crafted and inventively staged work from a talented ensemble. Here’s hoping they return next year.