Saturday, 11 October 2014

Chapter 40: CASA Latin American Theatre Festival - The Sand Settlers

I love a bit of boxing. Jab, jab, duck, right hook, left upper-cut, schwing. Give me a pair of boxing gloves and a mark, and I'm off. Punching out life's little niggles. It's been a bit of a revelation actually, to discover a hidden strength. So, I rather fell in love with this image on Shoreditch High Street last night, behind the fence of lover's locks, as we were winging our way to RichMix and the opening night of CASA, the Latin American Theatre Festival. I was with a friend over from Spain, off to see a play called "Población Arenera" - The Sand Settlers - by Chilean theatre company Caldo con Enjundia.  

Photo:  Casa Festival 2014 website (click here)

Based on the true story in 1940s of a rising star in boxing, Charolo, from a shanty town in Santiago. Paper-boy by day, "The Golden Hand" is the hope of a community that is society's own punching bag. The play is a tender portrait of his friendship with his trainer, Don Tan, who is just about keeping himself on the wagon, a sort of Chilean Del-Boy, my son.  And also that of Don Tan's relationship with Marta, who he has rescued from the clutches of an abusive pimp.  Marta is a tour de force, by turns a flirtatious, girlish, fierce, well-meaning, nagging, scream of a fish-wife, with the carnality of a Wife of Bath.  Their quick-fire banter is a delight. The rest of the cast play an array of colourful characters, from generic amigos to a one-eyed barman on the never-never, a factory boss, a bureaucratic receptionist, a pregnant protestor, leering football club officials and a Brothel Madam.   The characters in the play are highly stylised through costume and pronounced make-up, yet real, authentic and affecting. Throughout, there is the blind troubadour, a virtuoso on guitar, accompanying with seering live music.  

As the security forces move in on the eve of the settlement's tenth anniversary, Charolo becomes the spokesman for the community facing eviction, but he is punching above his weight. After a menacing interview with the divinely Machiavellian Cardinal, pruning his flower pot, clip, clip, clip, he is disappeared, and the rest of the community dispersed.

I cannot capture the whole play here, but hope this gives you an indication at least, of the hilarity, the poignancy, the energy and the physical chemistry between the entire cast.  Each member of Caldo con Enjundia is superb, and I don't say that lightly. "Caldo" can translate as a broth, or soup, and "Enjundia" literally means well a sort of meaty substance (metaphorically, and literally it is animal fat), and this theatre company really is a melting pot of talent, serving up food for thought. So, if you get a chance to go to RichMix - it's on today, Saturday, at 2.30pm (with Q&A afterwards) and at 5pm tomorrow. And there are sub-titles.  

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