Mendoza, Los Colochos @ Southwark Playhouse

24 – 28 October 2017

CASA Festival

Directed by Juan Carillo
Los Colochos Teatro

MENDOZA (FOTO ALMA CURIEL) 2.jpg

Photography by Alma Curiel

General Mendoza encounters a witch who prophesies his rise to leadership. Persuaded to take action by his wife, Mendoza begins an increasingly brutal and murderous rise to tyranny.

Performing in Spanish with English subtitles, Los Colochos, a theatre company from Mexico City, has created a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is powerful and refreshing. The adaption is rustic and earthy, and feels deeply entwined with Mexican culture and politics. Partly inspired by the writings of Juan Rulfo and Elena Garro, the production offers an allegorical beginning to some of Mexico’s violent recent history.

It also features a live chicken. Which is amazing.

The adaptation of the Shakespeare is clever and effective. Characters are merged and changed in a way that only develops and humanises them further. For example, the play has been streamlined from the Shakespeare version – the porter, nurse, and most of the various court underlings and a few lords have been condensed into a single servant for the Lady Macbeth equivalent. Her gossipy, chatty character makes her instantly likable. Seeing Lady Macbeth with a childhood friend and her nanny brings a whole new side to the character, making her far more dimensional, and her actions and her madness more justified.

That goes for all the characters. They feel real, human, historical, down to earth, even if their actions are still monstrous. It has none of the pageantry of Shakespeare, but cleverly echoes it’s language, and retains it’s poetry.

The cast is wonderful to watch. Playful and engaging, and when the play requires it, intensely dramatic and emotive. They’re a cohesive and powerful group of performers, and on more than one occasion gave me goosebumps. They engage with the audience, melding in and out of them, confiding in them, and handing out food and beer.

That bears repeating. It’s very hard not to love a cast that hands you beers.

Juan Carillo’s direction is masterly. The play is dynamic, and a pleasure to watch. The props and staging are creative, the cast provides music and soundscape, masks are used to great effect for various characters, and the deaths are moving, gory and shocking.

It’s a mesmerising production. And did I mention the free beer?

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