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Rewind at New Diorama Theatre | Review

Extreme might be a better word than Rewind for this production: somewhat devoid of nuance, the stage is either very brightly lit or otherwise almost in complete darkness. Every word in certain scenes can be heard, in others, the sound is so (seemingly deliberately) distorted that I gave up trying to decipher what was being said, and in still another, someone was shouting as loud as they could, but the music was cranked up even louder that his voice was drowned out. Now, that last one, at least in context, has a point, in that it is trying to theatrically demonstrate how difficult it is to be heard when one is speaking up for human rights in a society that stops at nothing to silence those who dare to criticise those in power.

Jeniffer ilustra
Jeniffer ilustra

The show’s preamble makes clear that while the main storyline is set in Latin America, considered by the United Nations as the most dangerous world region for human rights activists, in Britain, anti-protest legislation has increased in recent years, with police powers to restrict and criminalise protests beefed up thanks to the Public Order Act 2023. In the show proper, Alicia Dominguez, a fictional name of a young woman killed for, as this production would have it, taking a public stance to declare “women’s rights are human rights”, is one of many who have lost their lives at the hands of dictator regimes.

There’s a significant amount of actor-musicianship to relish, at least in part thanks to a re-enactment of a large gathering to celebrate human rights. The party itself comes across as an act of defiance, and even as one enjoys the festivities, there’s a knowing thought in one’s mind that things are almost inevitably going to get very difficult should any of the partygoers be identified by the powers that be: happy hour will soon end, and end badly.

It’s not immediately clear what a team of forensic anthropologists are doing – at first glance, it looked to be like an archaeological dig of a lost civilisation from millennia ago. It was only when there was talk of a mass grave being exhumed that the link between the painstaking work and what happened to Alicia became clear. There is, however, frustratingly little actual detail, besides having her life taken from her, about who she was. There are some vague suggestions through non-verbal scenes of puppetry and music as to what sort of past she might have led. But essentially, the show, despite being an hour long, takes a long time to make the point that a woman was murdered, and many others like her as well.

There is, at least, a very tasteful and convincing approach when it came to portraying how Alicia’s mother mourned Alicia’s death: alas, revealing anything more about how it was done would be giving too much away. But I would have liked to have discovered more about the perpetrators of these murders – why did they kill Alicia and her fellow activists? What was in it for them? Were they only following orders, as it were? This curious piece of physical theatre left me with more questions than answers.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Drawing from the science of Forensic Anthropology as both methodology and a form of resistance, Ephemeral Ensemble combine energetic physical performance, dynamic live music and a distinctive style in a show unlike any other.

Committed to remembering those who endured, and those who continue to live under authoritarianism, REWIND ultimately tracks back through time to reveal a universal story of the struggle for social justice.

30 Jan – 10 Feb 2024


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