There’s something very vulnerable about a play with two actors. From start to finish with only yourself, your fellow actor and your audience, a two-hander requires the utmost focus and concentration. I am pleased to say that David Acton and Joseph Wilkins didn’t disappoint. A compelling examination of the relationship between a torturer and his victim; Pedro and the Captain had the audience in the palm of its hand, echoing the effects of non-violent torture unto its audience.
Pedro has a wife and children. He is a middle class white man. He is now being held captive, and tortured by another middle class white man: The Captain. The Captain assures us all that he is the ‘good guy’. Through sessions of verbal persuasion, The Captain intends to get all the information he needs from Pedro, who is being violently tortured in the intermissions. In a fascinating twist, the torturer slowly becomes victim to his own methods.
David Acton, as the captain, is superb from start to finish. With a charming smile and eloquent disposition, Acton’s performance is so subtly disturbing that we as an audience can do nothing else but wait to see what comes next. The suspense is incredible. So much so that the bang of a table can make one jump, and the touch of a finger against his victim’s back can capture the essence of a heartbeat and take complete control. The irony of the psychological versus physical harm is not lost upon us, and after seeing a play last week which relied heavily on violence to engage, I can now securely argue that the art of persuasion is far more torturing to endure.
Director, Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, couldn’t have done a better job at expelling Mario
Benedetti’s script onto the stage. For a two-hander to keep an audience interested, the direction needs to be en point to the beat and the actors need to execute this direction finely. Umba has so carefully put this all together that not a moment of blocking feels unnatural, nor a moment of text feels unnecessary. Umba builds a slow crescendo of psychological meltdown, with perfect timing to maintain a pace that is slow without dragging. I was particularly observant of the changes in Acton’s costume, which effectively externalised his own corruption.
Beneditti’s script is perfect. So many moments of perfection, grasping tightly to the crucial naturalistic form of the piece, allowed the words to flow and the dialogue to merge beautifully between the characters. Beneditti displays a great skill of never giving too much away, but just enough to make the audience want more; this creates a riveting mirroring of the ultimate objective of the Captain, adding relentless layers to the morality of the play.
Pedro and the Captain transforms the delicate rapport between a doctor and his patient unto a victim and his torturer, humanising a violent man with a life outside of office hours. In many ways, this play delves deeper into the personal life of the authority figure than a play with lower self-security will ever do, ultimately making for a fascinating insight into the art of persuasion; particularly when persuasion takes hold of the figure supposedly dominating the conversation.
Pedro and the Captain is not a perfect play (there’s a moment of broken fourth wall which completely threw me, for example), however it’s harrowingly gripping moment by moment, delicately touching the surface of violence, without ever having to expose more than a single punch in the face.
Review by Joseph Winer
The work of one of South America’s greatest artists, Blackboard Theatre bring Mario Benedetti’s profound Pedro and the Captain to the London stage for the first time in 30 years.
Within the intimate confines of an interrogation room, two human beings are pushed to their limits, as the eponymous Pedro fights to retain his humanity in the face of an oppressive regime. This psychological battlefield offers up a timely universal reflection on states of oppression and dehumanization wherever they are found – war zones, refugee camps, boardrooms or bedrooms.
The story of Pedro’s disappearance will extend beyond the stage, and we invite you to follow as its effects are felt on social media, throughout the Vault’s many spaces, at demonstrations and on the streets around Waterloo.
Pedro and the Captain
by Mario Benedetti
Crescent | 8:15pm | 2 – 6 March | £12