Pablo Manzi is a Chilean playwright whose works have been staged all oer the world. Most of them saw the light in his own country staged by his own company, a collective called BONOBO. This latest play translated by William Gregory consists of a series of tiny playlets set in Chile, Mexico, Peru and the United States at different periods in time. Individually they work rather well but collectively it proves a long 70 minutes albeit a well acted 70 minutes. It was developed at the Royal Court under the auspices of the British Council which just about sums the whole enterprise up. Due to have been staged there in 2017 the pandemic put paid to that, but now here it is. It explores a series of situations in which violence occurs – a woman lecturer is assaulted by a student, a Mexican hangman who has botched his last job discovers his services are no longer needed, two Chilean border guards face up to the cold waiting to stop illegal immigrants from Peru and a girl obsessed with dancing in a night club brings it all to a close by committing a truly mind blowingly awful act of violence against a man who tries to help her.
You make of it what you will. The South American psyche can be very strange indeed. Things are not helped by an insane decision to stage it on a platform running along one entire wall of the Jerwood Upstairs with the audience on benches facing it. This means if you are seated in the middle you more or less focus on the players, if you are seated at the end they might as well be in the next room. Not the being the in middle is much of a help.
But the cast do perform their material very well indeed so it is not an entirely wasted evening. Nor can Pablo Manzi cannot be dismissed out of hand – there are all those awards – but this concoction, because play it is not, really does leave one bewildered and puzzled as to what it all adds up to. The parts, in other words, are rather better than the whole. It is, however, exactly the sort of piece the Upstairs Jerwood was set up to show. A two star play, however, with a three star cast is what it seems to me.
Director: Sam Pritchard.
Designer: Rosie Elnike.
Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs.
Sound Designer: Benjamin Grant.
Movement Director: Fernanda Munoz-Newsome.
Video Content Creator: Maurice Andressen.
Production Photographs: Tristram Kenton.