I Occur Here
Reviewed – 14th August 2018
“their neediness leads them to dance with a desperate parody of abandon, both agonising to watch and hilarious
Little known in the UK, Uruguayan novelist, essayist and poet Mario Benedetti is revered in Latin America. His death in 2009 became a catalyst for the region’s artists and writers and it is his poem ‘This is my house’ that provides the title for this short piece of physical theatre, staged with great brio at The Space Arts Theatre by the Oh Dear Theatre Company.
This work explodes Benedetti’s concept of home as a place in which there is no doubt, to the modern reality for millions, caught in the churn of teeming migration. Four transient archetypes (played by Daniela Cristo Mantilla, Nathalie Czarnecki, Santiago Del Fosco and Karolina Kritz) make their way for four different reasons, from the stability of their homelands to four barely defined destinies.
Theirs is a peculiarly modern variety of migrant, sharing nothing apart from their ‘in-betweenness’, unable to establish themselves in the cultural washing machine into which they are thrown. Indeed, clothing is used brilliantly from the start, the characters maniacally trying on and discarding clothes, effective as a metaphor for their unstable self-images, but also as a portrayal of instability itself. Wardrobe and the use of colour helps to separate out the play’s taxonomy of home-leavers – the searcher, the escaper, the mover and the ousted – creating order within a writhing, vibrant spectacle.
Physical theatre is not generally a clarifying medium. However, as a way to convey the delirium of the protagonists it is well chosen. Without acknowledging Benedetti’s influence, his appreciation of the poetry of the ordinary world runs through Hannah Winter’s script, with short, snatched scenes articulating perfectly those conversations with parents on leaving, that crisis of deciding what to pack for a journey to somewhere impossible to know. Movement Direction (Christian From) is no less articulate, for example in the scene in which the bewildered four are simply unable to sit on chairs properly, too anxious about fitting in, to fit in. Likewise, as they finally make friends, their neediness leads them to dance with a desperate parody of abandon, both agonising to watch and hilarious.
Despite a shredded narrative, mangled vowels and disconnected storylines, Directors Malena Arcucci and Mariana Aristizabel Pardo ensure the performance remains enjoyable and meaningful. Granted, it’s unlikely anyone will understand all mother tongues employed. Yet through the construction of the script, the use of audio sequences (Francisco Dorado) and lighting (Niko Goodman) to demarcate and punctuate, a kind of geometry is created to hold the audience and set up a satisfying conclusion, as the ousted meets an inevitable fate.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
I Occur Here
The Space until 18th August
Previously reviewed at this venue