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[Review:] HE PERDIDO A MARSEILLE (online).

Certainly the strongest of the three performances in the Teatro Multilingue triptych, this play is the most structured and coherent.

I shall start by considering the first major artistic decision in this performance: the desaturation of all colours barring blue. This effectively contextualises us in the mid-1900s through an intertextual visual reference to pre-Technicolor cinema and, more generally, renders the ‘palette’ bleak and cold. Whilst video editing is not something I usually consider when reviewing virtual performances, I think this is something worth noting, due to the effect it has on the play’s reading, and I believe it to be a good, if a little on-the-nose, decision.

Ignoring this, however, what we are first presented with in this play is incredibly confusing. ‘A madame no le gustan los extranjeros’ [‘Madame doesn’t like foreigners’ in English] is María’s (Mavil Georgi) first line of this play. Her next line portrays her concerned for the whereabouts of her cat. The next tells us that “his” cat returned home after a month, whilst subsequent lines confirm that is she who has lost her cat… So, who is Madame? Who is “he”? Georgi delivers one line, then turns, and the camera angle changes, and then she delivers another, turns, etc… The beginning is simply chaotic and illegible. I would recommend, without explanation and for obvious reasons, a complete rewriting of this beginning which should be immediately simple and accessible to an audience, contextualising the action and introducing lucidly us to the characters of the play and the play’s plot. Thus, the beginning is incredibly weak. And this is without mentioning that this all takes place in the stalls, with Georgi sifting through the seats… I fail to understand why this is not performed on the stage, as there is no symbolic reasoning for this to take place here.

Because of this lack of legible context and of concrete characters and objectives, naturalism is, as has been the case with the other two performances, very lacking. However, as the play progresses, naturalism certainly increases, with actors proving themselves to be credible and energised, but issues remain with the text itself.

Somehow, María manages to bring her cat from Spain to Marseille but loses it now on arrival? Somehow, a spy has been watching her, collecting information on her, completely undetected for some time now and yet casually, unthinkingly reveals that she knows her name? And then reveals her own? I also find it bizarre that María should wait until the end of the Spanish Civil War to flee the country, with the action of the play taking place one day afterwards. Why not flee sooner? More importantly, why María’s sudden change of heart to join the Anarchists? Elements like these compromise the realism of the text.

All irregularities aside, however, this play does capture a good amount of vivid detail on the wartimes of France and Spain, with an appropriate amount of time spent detailing María’s backstory and her experience with the Spanish Civil War and her journey to France. I would just recommend either developing François’s (Maxence Dinant) character or removing him completely. He has little effect on this plot; Elena’s (Carolina Gonnelli) character could have been enough, really.

I can see that these characters are used more as simple representations of the types of people that may have existed during these times, as opposed to intricate and unique characters who happen to live in the times, and this perhaps justifies the lack of character psychology in lieu of a focus on character history and experience. However, if this is, indeed, the intention, this should be developed further and perhaps this direct method of storytelling should replace the conventions of the traditional play, necessitating the removal of elements like the cat, for example. Related to this, however, I think including the Alberti poem, whilst a little inconsistent stylistically with the rest of the performance, is an attractive and reflective one, with the restoration of colour to the scene — red being both symbolic of bleeding death and, of course, the international symbol of remembrance, the poppy.

Overall, this is a good performance, if it does take a while to find its footing. I would just recommend refining pivotal moments of the plot, where plot-altering events are given more time and consideration.

“A good evocation of the sufferings of the past but lost to unsteady dramatisation.”


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