Tag Archives: Elena Pena




Battersea Arts Centre



 Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed – 5th February 2020



“the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be”


The importance of remembering – and forgetting – and identifying where you truly call your home are key themes in a fascinating and powerful audio-visual theatrical experience at Battersea Arts Centre as part of an impressive Going Global spring season.

As much a general plea to listen to the stories of our forebears as it is a personal journey through her family’s life in South America (and, indeed, the tale of the country itself), Florencia Cordeu has created a captivating piece of performance art in “Autoreverse.”

Using extracts from cassette tapes stored at her family home in Chile, Cordeu learns about the past and rediscovers her present as she reflects on what she hears on the tapes, featuring voices of various family members who escaped the cruel Argentinian regime in the 1970s but were forced apart as a result.

An array of cassette players in a living room are used to play the various tapes (all credit to Elena Pena at the sound desk for making this so realistic), which stirs recollections of growing up, and evokes memories of a bygone age, feelings of safety and home.

The set (Rajha Shakiry) is so convincing the audience feels it has mistakenly wandered into someone’s apartment rather than into a performance in the Centre’s Members’ Bar.

What is poignant is that to anyone else these recordings mean little – as Cordeu herself admits they “capture the banal, the everyday.” But we soon come to realise the importance of these tapes – love letters between family members living apart which capture moments in time to be played on other days in other places.

Director Omar Elerian allows the personal essence of the story to develop and flow naturally as Cordeu shares centre stage with the voices of the past, though references to the analogue reality of old cassette tapes (which have a limited life span) seem odd when it is clear that CDs or digitally recorded versions of the tapes are being played.

But it is easy to look beyond that as we picture a natural flow of thoughts and images falling onto the iron oxide of the tape, which allows a sense of “being there while not being there and seeing things with the ears.”

Not only do the recordings – and, by extension, the show – attempt to rescue and make sense of everyday life but serve a purpose of remembering what may have otherwise been forgotten.

A recurring motif of a tree – Cordeu brings on a bonsai, which she wishes could be planted outside rather than sitting on a table in a pot to allow it to grow freely and unconstrained – serves as a significant metaphor. She tends it with the notion that it is important to try to keep things alive, as important for plants as it is for memories.

With the first recording played serving as a narrative (the performer recorded it in her flat last year) there’s an intriguing question posed about looking to the future and being what you want to be – a publicity image for the production of a little girl dressed as Wonder Woman has relevance as the play continues.

The closing scene, which considers what is truly our home and how we build it up, adds depth to a show that is already thought-provoking.

The overall impact is touching, even where there’s a feeling another culture might find it difficult to share the experiences and fully understand the implication of all the memories. But the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Helen Murray



 Battersea Arts Centre until 22nd February


Previously reviewed at this venue:
How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse | ★★★ | May 2018
Rendezvous in Bratislava | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Dressed | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Status | ★★★½ | April 2019
Woke | ★★★ | June 2019
Now Is Time To Say Nothing | ★★★★ | October 2019
Queens Of Sheba | ★★★★ | November 2019
Trojan Horse | ★★★★★ | November 2019
Goldilocks And The Three Musketeers | ★★★★★ | December 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


The Play About my Dad – 4 Stars


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 29th June 2018


“Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo”


It is hard to imagine the horror of being caught up in Katrina, the category five hurricane that caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast of America in 2005. Along with claiming some 2,000 lives it caused $125 billion worth of property damage as well as having a profound impact on the environment.

To do justice to the panic, horror and loss those involved must have experienced in a stage show is very difficult. However Boo Killebrew has written a play that travels through many times and places and successfully achieves that.

The Play About My Dad is an autobiographical account of her own experiences of the event along with stories of some that experienced the full force of Katrina. Running alongside these stories, which are fictionalised versions of what likely happened to them, is her reaction to the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the subsequent reconnection with her father following his survival of the hurricane.

The two main characters are Boo herself (Hannah Britland) and her father Larry (David Schaal), a doctor called into action when the storm struck and who serves as the play’s narrator. They are performing and writing a play that tells these stories and it is an interesting vehicle that allows Boo to interact with the characters despite her having been partying in New York at the time.

We are introduced to the young Thomas family who decide not to evacuate to safer ground. Joel Lawes as Jay Thomas projects a relaxed southern approach to life and always has a positive approach to survival not necessarily shared by his wife Rena (Annabel Bates) and son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah). Also staying put is Larry’s elderly former nanny Essie Watson, played with conviction by Miquel Brown. Ammar Duffus and Nathan Welsh play two Emergency Medical Technicians and they connect and interact well every time they are on stage. There is pessimism and hope in equal measures. Juliet Cowan makes brief but impactive appearances as Sallye Killebrew.

Charlotte Espiner’s set is very basic with pallets, boxes and sheets of plywood that gives the impression of both protection and reconstruction. The lighting design from Ali Hunter is simple but effective with great use of blue under lighting to represent the incoming water and a chilling session when we listen to events in complete darkness.

The direction from Stella Powell-Jones moves the ninety minute no interval play along well ensuring attention is never lost. Elena Peña’s sound design is clever keeping the studio levels of a 175mph hurricane low, though never out of mind.

I felt the cast did everything expected of them, and rarely did I think they were acting. For the writer though, it must be difficult watching someone portray her on stage. In the playbook she writes ‘And as for the actress playing Boo, please make her really likable’. Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Harry Livingstone


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st July


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com