Theatre Ad Infinitum are bringing their award-winning Bucket List to BAC and a further 21 venues across the UK. Pertinent in a time when Donald Trump is looking to tear up NAFTA, the play follows an ordinary Mexican woman and her extraordinary quest for justice after her mother is murdered for protesting against corporate and governmental corruption.
Following a hit Edinburgh Festival Fringe run at the Pleasance Dome where it won a Spirit of the Fringe Award, the internationally acclaimed Theatre Ad Infinitum bring the epic tale of one Mexican woman’s fight for justice to Battersea Arts Centre. Created following conversations with close collaborator Vicky Araico Casas, Bucket List tells the story of Milagros, a Mexican orphan girl. When her mother is murdered for protesting corporate and governmental corruption, Milagros finds herself with only a bloodstained list of those responsible. Determined to make them pay, Milagros embarks on a passionate quest for justice – no matter the cost.
With an all female cast, their characteristic style of physical storytelling, live music, song and a nod to classic revenge thrillers, Theatre Ad Infinitum tell the story of Milagros’s life set against turbulent US-Mexican relations and the global free market capitalist system.
Deborah Pugh, who’s been a collaborator on the project from the start and is in the cast, answers a few questions about Bucket List.
Q: Can you tell us about the production and how it has evolved since the beginning?
Deborah: The original idea came from a conversation between Vicky [Araico Casas] & Nir [Paldi]; Vicky had said that in Mexico people are so frustrated and angry with corrupt governments and officials that they would say if they had only three months to live, the first thing that they would do is go out and kill a politician. This raised a number of questions… not least the question of what that would actually achieve. Even setting aside the moral issue of killing, what would be the actual consequences? Is that what it takes- something that extreme- to illicit change? Would it change anything? or is the system too big to fight? Either way, what it gave us was starting point of a character with nothing to lose who wanted to put an end to some bad guys….
Bucket List is set in Mexico, in a fairly typical US border town dominated by the huge factories or maquiladoras that sprang up in the 90s as a result of the signing of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which allowed US companies to make the most of cheap Mexican labour to produce their goods.The workforces in the factories are almost entirely female- women are deemed easier to control – the work is hard, long hours for low pay and workers’ rights often overlooked if a factory is covered by NAFTA. We follow the story of Milagros, the daughter of a factory worker who was killed for protesting against the conditions and pollution caused by the maquiladoras. Years after her mother’s death Milagros is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, most likely caused by the pollution from the factories, and she sets out to get her revenge on the people responsible.
The piece was developed over about a year, with long periods of writing, researching and thinking in between time in the rehearsal room. A lot of the work went into finding the appropriate storytelling language for the piece. Ad Inf. doesn’t really have a company style as such, we try to find the specific style to tell that specific story and here we wanted to create a world where America/Hollywood/iPhones/Disney and, by extension, most of the Western World could bump up against the story in a Mexican factory town. The casting was a big part of this – it’s an international cast, Vicky the only actual, actual Mexican because, even if this sliver of the story happens to be set in Mexico, it’s a global story and we wanted audiences to be able to recognise themselves and the parts they/ we all play in it.
Q: What can you tell us about your characters and how they fit into the storyline?
Deborah: I play Maria – Milagros’ mother, a factory worker and an activist. She instills in Mila the importance of fighting injustice, of holding people to account for their actions. Importantly she is a non-violent activist – the world they live in is an aggressive, dangerous one, where drug money runs through local government and life is cheap and dispensable, she is fighting for a way out of that. Before her death, she identifies five people she sees as responsible for the suffering and corruption in the town, the names on the list range from local:- the factory manager, who sexually abuses his female employees and releases chemical waste from the factory into the local river, to global:- the Presidents of US & Mexico who signed NAFTA. It is this list that becomes Mila’s bucket list.
I also play Jenny, an American PhD student and volunteer who comes to the town to open a community centre to help get kids off the streets and away from criminal gangs. She’s middle class, a lefty with a conscience, she’s probably had a crack at Clean Eating and she is Mila’s ticket to the US and her unwitting accomplice.
Q: How does the play fit into the world today?
Deborah: Well! When we were first making it there was some concern that in the UK especially, no one would know what NAFTA was, plus Mexico wasn’t particularly making any big headlines at the time – not that you should only make work about stuff that’s already in the spotlight but, y’know, Mexico wasn’t necessarily at the front of everyone’s minds over here. However! a lot has happened since then…. and whatever else you say about Donald Trump he certainly has brought Mexico and the North American Free Trade Agreement back into the collective consciousness. Famously he’s not such a fan of NAFTA either, of course, and as gross as it feels to even share a grain of an opinion with that man, it perhaps makes for a richer debate to be critical of the same thing from such wildly different positions. I think. Urgh.
Q: Who should get along to see it?
Deborah: EVERYONE. We had a lovely sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe and, perhaps understandably, had a great turn out from Mexican communities but, as I say, it is a global story – if you own stuff made by people you’re in the show. Also as a company that makes particularly visual work we’ve been looking at how we can make it as accessible as possible to deaf audiences. We’ve been working with deaf performers and British Sign Language interpreters to find ways to integrate the interpreter rather than have them positioned at the side of the stage, away from the action. It’s an ongoing research but I think there should be BSL interpreted performances at most venues on the tour and it would be great to get feedback from BSL users.
Q: Bucket List is touring – what are your likes and dislikes of touring?
Deborah: You get to see the insides of a lot of Travelodges…. It’s mainly long days in vans with the occasional break for a show, but they’re long days in vans with your mates so it could be worse. It’s great to see bits of the country that you might not have otherwise thought to visit and get different responses from local audiences. It’s also a good excuse to eat whatever the local cake/cheese/sausage is… And, y’know, you make work to be seen so it’s important to take it where people are, which isn’t always London.
@TheatreAdInf | #BucketList | www.theatreadinfinitum.co.uk
Running Time: 90 mins | Suitable for ages 14+
Writer and Director Nir Paldi
Music Amy Nostbakken
Set & Costume Designer Max Johns
Lighting Designer Peter Harrison
Sound designer Chris Bartholomew
Movement Director and Dramaturgy George Mann
Outside Eye Joe Wallace
Cast: Tamsin Clarke, Charli Dubery, Luisa Guerreiro, Orian Michaeli, Deborah Pugh, Shamira Turner
Live Musician – Haruna Komatso
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN
Monday 13th February – Saturday 4th March 2017
Mon – Sat 7.30pm | 2.30pm 25 Feb & 4 March | BSL interpreted 23 Feb & 3 Mar
13 – 15 Feb £15 (£12.50 concs) | 16 Feb – 4 March £17.50 – £15 (12.50 concs)
020 7223 2223 | www.bac.org.uk
7th March – 29th April 2017 (further touring dates within this period to be announced)
The tour will include performances at eight festivals as part of the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN), a partnership between Battersea Arts Centre and eight national partners.
Full tour details at http://www.theatreadinfinitum.co.uk/