Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Juana lives in mexico with her mother, mexico is corrupt and violent and there is no promise of life here for Juana so she decides to emmigrate to London. Juana is a million tells the story of one womans struggle with leaving her country, through this we learn of mexican history and culture and the violent struggle it is currently in. The realities of immegration once in London are also portrayed, the search for work, a bed and money – explotation, cheats and lonliness. Juana finds herself in the position of many women, desperation, and turning to sex as her only way of survival. Through beautiful and powerful physicality, exceptional character work and live musical accompaniment – this one woman show is heart breaking, honest and incredibly important theatre.
Juana lives in Mexico with her mother, Mexico is corrupt and violent and there is no promise of life there for Juana so she decides to emigrate to London. Juana is a million tells the story of one woman’s struggle with leaving her country, through this we learn of Mexican history and culture and the violent struggle it is currently in. The realities of immigration once in London are also portrayed the search for work, a bed and money and consequently; exploitation, cheats and loneliness. Juana finds herself in the position of many women, desperation, and turning to sex as her only way of survival. Through beautiful and powerful physicality and exception character work from Actress Vicky Araico Casas and live musical accompaniment from Adam Pleeth – this one woman show is heart breaking, honest and incredibly important theatre.
Juana’s mother, portrayed through bent knees and strong tribal gestures, tells us of Mexico’s history – invaded by the Spanish, the Mexicans saw these Spaniards with there blond hair and beast as gods, they gave them gold and women as presents. One of these became their translator and aided them in exploiting Mexico, in taking all it had and leaving it poor. Juana’s mother explains that when they dance in full traditional dress it is not for the tourists but to ignite the ancient spirits. She dances with passion, banging her feet on the floor and swinging her arms flying across the stage with strong rage and roots. But Mexico is suffering, from fear the tourists no longer come, the restaurants are empty and Juana and her mother have given up paying the police for protection. The Mexican violence is between Mexicans, it is relentless and the reason of many a unnecessary murder.
Playing Juana’s mother Vicky Araico Casas is full of passion; she is strong and talks with a thick Mexican accent, moving her arms slowly igniting the ancient spirits as she speaks. Her physical adaptation into each character is expert and clear, each character is colourful and often grotesque, like a caricature.
There is a ripple of uncertainty in the audience as Juana’s character talks about getting through customs, about saying she is on holiday, when she definitely isn’t, about coming into the country with no papers. It is a blunt description of illegal emigration that is a fact of today’s society. This piece is admirable in its clarity with the topic. And brings a important sense of perspective by outlining one woman’s personal story, by illustrating the very factors that have brought to her to this situation, and the troubles she must now face as an foreigner in a land with no language and no papers.
We are introduced to the concept of ‘hot bedding’ where 7 people share a rooms and rotate the use of the beds, Juana shares with Guadalupe – animated by Vicky with great jowls and hanging arms, a stinky obese woman, who yawns incessantly. Juana gets a job in a restaurant but the chef Ali is a sexist pig who eventually harasses her and it the fits of misunderstanding and exploitation Juana looses her job with no pay.
The most heart breaking moment which caused my to boil over in tears is a flash back – Juana is dancing in a nightclub in Mexico with her boyfriend Pedro. Vicky dances the most flamboyant Salsa; she is all legs and smiles! A gang ambushes the nightclub; they throw heads, people heads, into the crowd. The story is horrific and haunting – and no doubt true. Pedro picks up a head and throws it back ‘who do you think you are! Some kind of Hero!’ shouts a gang member and shoots Pedro down dead. The pain of this moment is immense, because it is no doubt true. The amount of flippant murder at the hands of gangs in Mexico is rife and the lives of Mexican women and families are destroyed every time. Juana screams.
Juana finds herself in a new job, packing shoes in a factory – with each job Vicky develops a dance sequence out of the industrious actions and they transform into a salsa. The musical accompaniment builds these moments, creating the rhythms of working that is joyful. Juana is happy when she is working, she is a hard worker and enjoys the rhythm of repetition, she is happy to have a job – it is the saving of her. Again this job is pulled from her and she isn’t paid – the job agency she got it through has disappeared and she is left on the street crying ‘Mi dinero! Mi dinero!’.
The story spirals until Juana is left with little options, she has a met a man called Roger, he is 60, cannot speak Spanish and cannot Salsa. She has his business card; he said he will marry her. Juana in a million ends when she calls him. Turning to the only option she has left, to survive by committing to a loveless marriage, as a sexual object, for financial stability.
Based on events from Vicky Acairo Casas own experiences and the lives of other latin american women, this story is the story of millions of women; it is performed with rigour and is visually and musically engaging. The writing is rich and funny; the characters are full of life and flavour. Vicky is a beautiful actress who morphs between characters with great physical ease and an array of vocal talent. Within a small intimate space she took us through this personal story and gave us important information to make us understand the position of emigrating Mexican women. The content of this work is so potent with the pain and struggle of national loyalty, female dignity and grief. I left quite shaken and certain in the knowledge that I will never forget this show.