Tag Archives: Paula Paz

Ay, Carmela! – 3 Stars


Ay, Carmela!

Cervantes Theatre

Reviewed – 27th September 2018


“a love letter of sorts to the Spanish Civil War”


War is not a concept we are unfamiliar with. In this world, there is always one country battling with another. Or, more tragically, one country with two opposing sides fighting each other. José Sanchis Sinisterra’s 1985 play, Ay Carmela! is a love letter of sorts to the Spanish Civil War, highlighting the terror and devastation that conflict leaves in its destructive path.

Paulino is alone in the dark of an empty theatre. Left with his thoughts and imagination becoming more vivid. Outside, the Spanish Civil War is still raging on, General Franco and his men are storming through Spanish towns, liberating them one by one of the communist-driven Republicans. Paulino was once part of a travelling, two-bit, music hall double act with his outspoken partner and lover Carmela. They found themselves caught behind enemy lines of Franco’s Nationalist party. They were forced to put a performance together, for both troops and prisoners, which ended in fatal circumstances, and replays in Paulino’s mind constantly. With the metaphysical appearances of Carmela, it is never clear whether this is in Paulino’s mind or a fantastical occurrence.

I would be interested to have seen this production in the original Spanish (which is performed on different dates throughout the run). There are elements to the version I saw that did not click which may be due to the translation (John London) to English. Certain phrases didn’t sit quite right and the style at times came across too over dramatic and hammy. In the Spanish language, this might have come across differently. As surreal and absurdist as the piece is, with many similarities to the work of Samuel Beckett, there are still moments that lacked clarity, or, more unfortunately, are just a little lacklustre. A good ten to fifteen minutes could have been shaved off in places.

Ivanhoe Norona as Paulino has certainly to be commended for his natural comic timing. His slapstick antics are sometimes reminiscent of the silent movie age. He tries to balance this with a more nuanced display of emotion, for intimate scenes, yet it is noticeable that the comedy is where he feels most comfortable. Madalena Alberto as Carmela is a vibrant force when present on stage, offering an innate chemistry between herself and Norona, bickering like an old married couple.

Enrique Muñoz, head of sound and video, did an excellent job in projecting black and white footage from the civil war onto the stage floor, enabling someone like myself, with no real knowledge of the conflict, to get a greater appreciation of its atrocities.

Ay Carmela! Is a highly allegorical play that illustrates the human price we pay for war. A symbolic depiction of the fear-mongering time of the civil war. Perhaps when you do not have a full understanding of the history of the Spanish Civil War, and combined with an English translation, which I imagine has lost some of the poeticism of the Spanish original, the play can be a slow and difficult to follow at times. Nevertheless, the cast and crew put together a production that is difficult to fault.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole


Cervantes Theatre

Ay, Carmela!

Cervantes Theatre until 13th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Little Pony | ★★★★ | June 2018


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



The Little Pony – 4 Stars


The Little Pony

Cervantes Theatre

Reviewed – 14th June 2018


“they capture in equal amounts, the mundane as well as the unimaginable events that happen within a long-term relationship”


Every parent hopes and expects that when they drop their child off to school they will be happy and safe, and that their needs will be looked after. When you are informed that the whole school is bullying your child, how do you react? Especially when you are told that the onus is partially on the child for wearing what they deem an inappropriate backpack? In Paco Bezerra’s hard hitting play The Little Pony, it is the proceedings after such allegations that form the basis of the work, throwing up highly relevant arguments, and exploring issues many are facing today. Originally written for Spanish audiences, it has now been translated by Marion Peter Holt, allowing the English-speaking public a chance to witness the intensity of Bezerra’s writing.

It is inspired by the true-life incident that happened in North Carolina, in 2014, where nine year old Grayson Bruce was attacked verbally and physically for coming to class with a pink My Little Pony backpack. This resulted in the school forbidding the boy to wear the bag, rather than taking the correct measures against the bullies. Bezerra uses the horrific case to start a conversation about equality and morality, without forcefully trying to find a solution or easy answers.

Adopting the perspective of the boy’s (in this version Timmy) parents, The Little Pony offers a close-up view of the battle one couple goes through – with themselves as much as the outside world – to protect their child. Daniel (Paul Albertson) has a liberal yet also ‘brush things under the carpet’ attitude, leaving him oblivious to the severity of the situation until the last minute, where his anger finally gets the better of him, with adverse consequences. His wife Irene (Rachel Sanders) has more conservative ideals, believing in doing what the ‘majority’ expects, until she soon begins questioning her morals and capabilities as a mother. Both argue over their son’s wellbeing, whilst poor Timmy isolates himself, imagining another universe that protects him from the terrible reality, waiting for his parents to finally hear him.

Paul Albertson and Rachel Sanders do a terrific job as husband and wife, desperately trying to do what is best for their son. At times moments can feel forced and too theatrical, yet for the majority, they capture in equal amounts, the mundane as well as the unimaginable events that happen within a long-term relationship with authenticity, which this highly intimate play deserves.

Video Designer Enrique Muñoz adds a chilling tone to the production, making the central, wall-hanging portrait of Timmy eerily modify as the boy’s traumas worsen, giving a creepy Dorian Grey effect as the happy child in the picture starts to disappear.

With a mix of sensitivity and stark brutality Bezerra raises awareness of the difficulties and struggle in changing social expectations and the challenges faced if you lie outside what is considered ‘normal’.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Elena Molina


Cervantes Theatre

The Little Pony

Cervantes Theatre until 30th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
The House of Bernarda Alba | ★★★★ | November 2017


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