Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Effervescent and didactic at a pace, Stardust is a live art performance by Blackboard theatre- a collaboration between international artists deconstructing the impact and the history of the cocaine industry in Columbia. The performance is an exploration through physical theatre, animation and lecture that paints a vivid picture of a history that spans over hundreds of years and how it effects the lives of so many people.
Our charismatic guide, Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, artistic director of Blackboard theatre, leads us through our journey via the means of incredible imagery, dance and stunning animations. While his obvious charisma and likeablity mean I would challenge anyone not to completely fall in love with him, there’s an underlying, fizzing anger that emanates from beneath his cheeky exterior.
Wonderful animations are used to great effect, projected onto the sparse set and fabric, transporting us to the rain forests of South America. The beautiful theatrical techniques and incredible use of projection are dispersed with audience interaction in the form of games and activities. Even in the times when interacting with the audience, Miguel brings with him an urgency that echoes the nature of the drug that he’s talking about but also a thinly veiled anger and tension wanting to be released through out the piece.
Some of the audience interaction can appear quite clunky, a little bit tense and maybe even unnecessary in the context of such beautiful art, however, there is a feeling of complicity throughout the awkward interactions. While we’re laughing, the uncomfortable participants echo the awkwardness of the situation further hammering home, literally at one point, how complicit everybody is in the darkness of the subject matter whether they’ve taken the drugs or not. “We’re Not There.” the resounding cry of the, predominantly western, middle class audience.
It is a lot of information to be consumed at one time, so to speak. The speed and tension at which it comes at can be at times confusing and spans everything from common knowledge to the most shocking information but always delivered in a very matter of fact way by our teacher.
At times it feels like an appeal, at times it feels like an admonishment, asking the audience to feel everything from shame to elation. But the comic timing of our protagonist always brings us back to a place of respectful learning and listening.
By the culmination of the piece, Stardust, essentially appears to be a campaign to raise awareness of the human cost that this drug has amassed over the centuries. A call to arms with no solution offered, a hopelessness delivered with a refreshing transparency and honesty.
Important and unnerving, the piece always brings us back to the central likability of the main character, we care what happens to him, we care that he cares, resulting in something quite moving, quite different and really quite remarkable.