Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Bucket List looks at the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Mexico. A factory pours out unfiltered waste into a river, Mexicans live in poverty on its bank, Milagros’ family raise their heads above the parapet to protest. Once again Theatre Ad Infinitum take on an important story and find a new form to give it voice.
In 1994, the USA, Canada and Mexico signed a trade agreement, NAFTA has not brought Mexico the trade benefits it promised. Riddled by corruption and lack of political scrutiny, Mexico has seen rocketing rates of poverty and almost non existent economic growth.
Theatre Ad Infintum’s latest show, Bucket List, examines how a seemingly remote trade deal directly impacts on the local population. Milagros and her mother live in poverty in a small village by a river; her mother works in the local factory that poisons the river by discharging its waste unfiltered into it. One of the few that dare to protest, she is eventually silenced and murdered for her efforts. All that Milagros is left with is a bloodstained bucket list, a list of those implicated in the environmental disaster and by association in her mother’s death. Brought up by her a friend of her mother’s, Milagros’ innocence quickly wanes as she sees friends and fellow workers abused at the hands of powerful local and national forces. Disillusioned she decides to take justice into her own hands and measure out revenge to her mother’s bloody list.
An all female cast takes on the story, with Vicky Araico Casas, a powerful lead as Milagros. Deborah Pugh as Milagros’ mother and later as an American aid worker, is a compelling presence on stage.
Combining music, dance and textual theatre, the troupe moves from very literal storytelling to beautifully choreographed sequences, reminiscent of Latin America’s magic realism tradition. Moving from kids playing Elephant Steps on the streets to working in a factory, Bucket List manages to show just how quickly Mexican kids have to grow up, and the cast move ably through their various ages.
However, this anti fairy tale veers so rapidly between realism and fantasy that the story is often confused and confusing. The devised production throws in so many events – murder, rape, cancer, a chess tournament to name just a few – that its treatment of them all can be at best superficial. To a large extent, the company’s skill and vitality do manage to transcend this, but it’s a tricky balancing act.
While Bucket List is fuelled by political urgency and has an important story to tell, its form and concentration on movement at the expense of text has the effect of simplifying what is a complicated story. Any nuance or commentary is lost in this rather simplistic presentation of Mexico’s treatment at the expense of NAFTA. The conundrum of moral ambiguity is raised about whether violence can ever be justified as Milagros’ mother returns from the grave to question her daughter’s motives but the action quickly moves on and her intervention is lost.
A powerful and compelling story is matched by an equally potent performance. Theatre Ad Infinitum create a different style with every show; once again it has taken a story of political injustice and given it voice in a new form.