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Theatre Review Thought provoking and darkly entertaining

An exploration of how language connects us when confronting the psychological and emotional impact of violence, writes SIMON PARSONS

A Fight Against... (Una Lucha Contra...)
The Royal Court

 

PABLO MANZI is an internationally acclaimed Chilean playwright achieving many awards with his native theatre group, Bonobo, but this stimulating production marks his English-language debut.

His play is a series of five, thematically connected scenes set in different periods throughout the Americas exploring the relationship between violence, community and communication.

Manzi’s style employs surreal touches in largely naturalistic settings, often with darkly comic effect, in order to isolate his subject. This technique allows him to explore how language connects us when confronting the psychological and emotional impact of violence: a lecturer forced to redefine her description of being assaulted for the sake of explaining it to her perplexed husband, a nationalist, home-defence meeting realising its unifying, violent philosophy is at odds with its members’ personal needs and a hangman losing his job because public executions no longer communicate effectively.

Director Sam Pritchard utilises the full width of the Royal Court’s Jerwood stage to explore the distance between characters attempting to bond through shared experiences and effectively links the scenes with an isolated, drunk girl drifting and dancing her way towards the final scene and her attempts to re-enter a violent nightclub.

The cast do an impressive job switching between roles and capturing the isolation of individuals within groups confronted or united by violence yet bonded by some common denominator such as family, social or professional ties.

Joseph Balderrama embodies this dichotomy in his multiple roles from a softly spoken, concerned husband struggling to literally understand his traumatised wife to an emotionally supressed vigilante delivering a heart-felt, angry monologue to an empty stage.

At 70 minutes, it is much more than a dramatic exercise yet less than a full-blown drama but has real impact. Manzi’s exploration of the difference between “you and me” and “us” in the face of violence is thought provoking, darkly entertaining and well worth catching.

Runs until 21 Jan. Box office: royalcourttheatre.com

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