In some ways, The Day You’ll Love Me has been done before. A man with noble intentions and with a heart, but with one major flaw: he exaggerates the truth to the point that his whole story turns out to be one lie after another – this all smacks of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. But Pio Miranda (Marco Aponte) is a communist (or is he?), and at least he has the strength of character, in the end, to confront reality rather than top himself.
This being Caracas in 1935, Elvira (Yvonne Wickham), the eldest of three sisters, would prefer Pio, engaged to her sibling Maria Luisa (Sophia Kounoupias, making her professional stage debut in this production), to shut up and get on with life. Elvira’s down-to-earth nature and sometimes pithy putdowns are in contrast to the philosophical ramblings of Pio – rather like Maria Luisa, I find myself following his lines of argument with varying degrees of comprehension.
Come to think of it, I found myself following virtually anyone’s line of argument a little difficult at times. A fellow theatregoer, after the show, after it was pointed out she had misheard a name, mused: “Well, it’s the accents, you know.” I thought it was the acoustics of the auditorium rather than intonation or diction – Christofer Alcala in the role of Placido, brother of the three sisters, described in the programme as ‘newly arrived to London’, to his credit made the extra effort to repeat any words that may have been even slightly mispronounced. The acoustics are very conducive to actors performing eight-show weeks, as it goes, but do not always lend themselves well to loud and rapid dialogue. It is the lesser of two evils, however: to slow the dialogue down would mean the show has much less momentum.
This is a truly international cast – Aponte and Alcala are from Venezuela, and Guido Garcia is from Uruguay – thus making Mark Minshall’s valiant attempt at a Caracas accent in the role of Le Pera a clear endeavour to maintain continuity. It is as odd as it sounds, but again, for the British actors to have spoken in RADA accents (or however they naturally speak) would be even more jarring.
There is some fresh air with the arrival of Carlos Gardel (Guido Garcia), a renowned tango singer-songwriter, largely based by author Jose Ignacio Cabrujas on an actual entertainer of notoriety of the same name (call up ‘Carlos Gardel’ in a search engine if you are curious), who without warning turns up at Maria Luisa’s house. It is, from what I can deduce, a plan by Placido to please his three sisters, all big fans of Carlos Gardel. And boy, do they throw themselves at Gardel’s feet when he arrives, as though prepubescent girls in our day welcoming a member of One Direction in their front room. And how wildly inappropriate that the brother should be called Placido – Alcala’s portrayal of him has him bouncing around with such energy and passion to the point that when he sits to catch his breath, there is little if any acting required. Placid? Nope!
There are too many set pieces of dialogue when Gardel is sat at the dinner table. I would normally have expected more interruptions and free-flowing (or supposedly free-flowing, given there would be a script to follow) conversations. Instead some of the characters speak one-by-one, in turn, at length, to quote BBC Radio 4, “without hesitation, repetition or deviation”. While it drove the narrative forward, it seemed more than a tad implausible that a dinner table conversation between seven people would be so formal. However, Garcia’s Gardel can belt out a tune very well, and does so in Spanish; a song called The Day You’ll Love Me, a favourite amongst the four siblings.
The wide performance space is used to the full, including the upstairs landing that leads to the light and sound desk, used as a balcony. It is a little being at the opticians for a sight exam (apparently what ‘eye tests’ are called these days) and being asked to look left, then straight ahead, left again, then to the right, and up to the right, and so on.
It is never easy to weigh up hopeful aspirations against practical pragmatism. The Day You’ll Love Me does not attempt to dispense any advice as to which should conquer over the other, but as Maria Luisa breaks down as Carlos Gardel sings, the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson come to mind: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” This is a fiercely dense theatrical work with the right amount of light humour to restore equilibrium, and I warmly recommend it.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Theatro Technis presents The Day You’ll Love Me by Jose Ignacio Cabrujas
Directed by George Eugeniou
The play is set in Caracas, Venezuela, on 11th June 1935, when Carlos Gardel, the legendary tango singer, has come to give a concert. Living under the dictatorship of General Gomez, there is dissent in the home of Ancizar family. Maria Luisa invests her hope in the first Communist state in Russia and is planning to follow her political ideals and her love of ten years, Pio Miranda, to Ukraine.
For the other members of the family – Maria Luisa’s brother, sister and niece – it is not Communist Russia which represents hope, but the fact that Carlos Gardel is in town, and nothing is more wonderful than when he invete himself for dinner. For Gardel appears the Ancizar family, how do they change?
After 25 years of its London premiere is 1990 at the Hampstead Theatre, Theatro Technis brings back this multi-award winning political drama.
18th August – 5th September
Tuesday – Saturday: 7.30pm
Thursday 20th August 2015