Tag Archives: William Gregory

“Cuzco” at Theatre 503

Even in a city as cosmopolitan as London, the chance to see contemporary European plays doesn’t come along often enough. This work, from Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez, went down well in Spain. Although it is a hard play to warm to, it is intriguing, has a distinctive voice and the production is first class.

The scenario – a couple taking a trip to Peru to save their relationship – is discordantly low stakes, given how much mileage Rodríguez hopes to get out of it. As both the characters become increasingly odd, observations on how “tourism perverts everything”, plenty of colonial guilt and a dash of both Marx and mythology become far-fetched and forced… yet, always interesting.

As for the couple, who (as usual for plays nowadays) are unnamed, they seem mismatched from the start. While the woman hates travel, the holiday changes her the most. She is smart and interesting and Dilek Rose gives a strong performance in the part; although how funny the play should be seems to be an unresolved issue. Her boyfriend is all passive aggression and place names. While Gareth Kieran Jones does well when emotion is called for, and saves a final uncharacteristic tirade that comes too close to ridiculous, his character is far too dull for her.

Criticism of William Gregory’s translation is difficult without a knowledge of the source, but it’s clear Rodríguez writing is heavy handed. A good deal of speech is bizarrely grandiose. And a lot of clichés slip in towards the end that make for uncomfortable listening. Further credit to the performers for making some deadened lines really live. After all, worrying about the “bourgeoisie self-contemplation of our drama” doesn’t really trip off the tongue.

Despite reservations, Cuzco is a trip worth taking. It’s a different view on plenty of issues that preoccupy British playwrights; there’s a good take on privilege for a start. And superb work from director Kate O’Connor, injecting a carefully controlled momentum, makes the play convincing throughout. Best of all is the sound design from Max Pappenheim, which supports the play brilliantly, providing an hallucinatory tone that fits the mention of a “suffocated howl” the characters experience to perfection.

Until 16 February 2019


Photo by Holly Lucas

“B” at the Royal Court

In Guillermo Calderón’s new play, three terrorists debate their plans to use a bomb. To make the show theatrically explosive, the depressingly topical subject matter is delivered with risqué comedy. B needs handling with caution; the piece gives extra meaning to the term trigger warning.

The plotters are pretty hopeless, which provides plenty of twists. Danusia Samal plays Alejandra, who hopes her bombs don’t hurt and views her protest as a kind of art work. Samal achieves the near impossible in making such a character credible. Aimée-Ffion Edwards plays Marcela, whose slowly revealed death wish provides much needed pathos. Their bomb is obtained from an older agitator, a role Peter Kaye is refreshingly restrained in. The different views and generational divide amongst the trio provide the play’s weightier moments.

Trouble is, there doesn’t feel like a lot of insight here: terrorists are troubled people. Well, yes… The play’s Chilean origin could have provided new information for a UK audience but isn’t investigated explicitly. We are left with slim, rehearsed arguments for the indefensible – and these are neither stimulating nor challenging.

Managing to make this topic funny is so bold that dismissing the play altogether is impossible. There are some good giggles around using code words for the bomb and anarchist communities. And, translated by William Gregory, poetic streams of consciousness  and clever word association compensate for the play’s failings. Director Sam Pritchard is sympathetic to this strength and the cast deliver their lines well. Deserving special praise is Sarah Niles as a mysterious neighbour. This is the one character who gets more interesting as the play goes on. Niles’ off-beat delivery shows a committed appreciation of the text’s entertaining potential.

Calderón is keen on absurdities, his style of writing is exciting and this chance to see his work in London is welcome, but this subject matter deserves more substance than he delivers.

Until 21 October 2017


Photo by Helen Murray