A compelling and original production. Rodriguez and Arpa connect directly with one of the greats of the Spanish Golden Age. This allegorical fable, ostensibly of an abandoned child, Rosaura, fathered on a poor woman by a passing nobleman; and her heroic rescue of an unjustly imprisoned prince wielding her father’s sword, is simple and powerful, and is told through the eyes of the girl by this pair of talented creatives.
Movement and lighting is at the heart of this black box production. The use of hand held torches is perfectly coordinated, the skill of the two actors hitting their mark on a darkened stage speaks of both innate skill and many hours of rehearsal. Carefully scripted ad libs and asides give spontaneity and freshness to the piece without ever becoming self-indulgent.
The two actors play a variety of characters, breaking the fourth wall with apparent spontaneity, to provide any necessary exposition. Little is needed. Drawing from physical theatre and dance, with expressive SFX, we are rarely left in doubt of who is who. The poetry inherent in the passages in Spanish beautifully illustrate the grace of these two accomplished performers, translation seems irrelevant.
There is much truth in their movement, and also a complete absence of the smugness that can so bedevil the ‘classic reimagining’ trope. This classic story is told through different eyes without self-consciousness or embarrassment, and is all the more powerful for it.
The production juxtaposes moments of profound drama and contemporary comic interludes, a cheesy chat show skewers the villainous Astolpho with his own pomposity, then the performance turns the whole mood on a sixpence and we are pitched into a mortal battle.
Rodríguez pulls off a perfect mix of strength and vulnerability in the title role, and there is a real sexual spark with Arpa’s carefully nuanced and often desperate Segismundo. Both actors have the skill of using body language, movement and tone to effectively identify their characters.
After the show, Rodriguez spoke with pride about her country’s dramatic legacy, reaching back into history, the work asking a number of profound questions about the human condition and our perception of reality.
The short run is almost at an end, but the company are hopeful of bringing the production back to the UK soon. Any programmers looking for something fresh and original in 2017 should take note.
An enjoyable and accessible performance given with fierce pride. Great story-telling, great cast, excellent production.
Review by Laura Thomas