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Collide Theatre Presents Tejas Verdes – Review

Tejas Verdes - Photo credit: Konstantinos N. Papaoikonomou
Tejas Verdes – Photo credit: Konstantinos N. Papaoikonomou

Over the last couple of years, Collide Theatre have produced some quite fascinating and surprising work that I have been lucky enough to review. So it will come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to review their latest production Tejas Verdes at the Ugly Duck.

Tejas Verdes is an old hotel in Chile that was one of the locations used by The Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) to hold and torture ‘enemies’ of the Pinochet regime. The narrative by Fermín Cabal – translated by Robert Shaw – follows the story of a young girl by the name of Colorina arrested for being a Marxist. Told with a series of monologues, we meet Colorina herself, a cellmate, the person who betrayed her to the authorities, an army doctor and a UK lawyer defending Pinochet. Each has their story to tell, and their version of events to recount and each has a way to justify their actions and live with themselves.

The production itself moves gently around the location with the people in prison being kept in semi-darkness whilst in complete contrast, those attempting to defend the regime’s actions are in bright light. The five actresses – Ava Pickett, Evelyn Lockley, Susan Hoffman, Hayley Hirsch and Frances Keyton – ensure the full attention of the audience towards each of their characters and at times changing the perception of the audience. For example, I found that my initial reaction to the informant, which was the expected one, altered completely over the course of her monologue. Whilst it would be impossible to completely forgive her for her actions, I did find myself gaining an understanding and, more importantly, wondering what I would have done in her place.

The production itself works on many levels. The text is nicely written and the delivery is never over the top or going beyond believability. Even the army doctor manages to come across better than expected. The lighting designed by Guido Garcia Lueches, really adds to the atmosphere as does the music by David Denyer which is used sparingly but to great effect.

It is interesting to read Director Emily Louizou’s notes about the play, as the events portrayed here were not that long ago when the UK and the USA were firm supporters of Augusto Pinochet and his regime. However, it is also scary that in an age when the CIA can carry out ‘extraordinary rendition’ with impunity and where uncharged prisoners at Guantanamo Bay can be interrogated using methods that are not considered to be torture since someone rewrote the definition, the play may have more relevance today than we would like to admit.

So to sum up, with Tejas Verdes, Collide Theatre have again put together and presented a first-rate show which works on many levels. It is not always comfortable hearing the descriptions of the torture carried out on behalf of the state – especially as you know that the script is based on real experiences which were probably worse than anything presented. Tejas Verdes is a fascinating and thought-provoking piece that reminds the viewer just because someone is our ‘friend’ they are not necessarily all good.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

The most important human right is the right to life itself. And then prohibition to torture follows. No human being could argue the opposite. But what happens when the wrong people are found – or even elected – in the wrong positions?

Fermín Cabal’s play is a haunting and compelling piece of art about humanity’s brutal ability to cause pain and horror. Tejas Verdes, an idyllic hotel was turned into a torture camp during General Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. The play focuses on the story of one woman, Colorina, who comes to symbolise the 3,000 who were violently killed during the Pinochet regime that lasted from 1973 to 1990.

The time is the present – or even the future? – and the place could be any country. Forty-four years after the coup, we felt the need to tell this story again. Violating vital human rights should not be acceptable. Forty-four years later, we wonder whether our world has changed much.

Written by Fermín Cabal
Directed by Emily Louizou
Music Composition: David Denyer
Movement and Choreography: Ioli Filippakopoulou
Designer: Adelaide Green
Lighting Design: Guido Garcia Lueches
Producer: Rachel Horowitz
Translator: Robert Shaw
Stage Manager: Alex Karavia
Assistant Designer: Cara Evans
Graphics Design: Elif Tanmar
Marketing: Karima Sam
Video: Lucy Hickling
Photography: Konstantinos N. Papaoikonomou, Mark Volikas
Cast: Ava Pickett, Evelyn Lockley, Susan Hoffman, Hayley Hirsch, Frances Keyton

Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd April 2017
49 Tanner Street, London
SE1 3PL
Running time: approx. 70 minutes

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