Villa & Discurso

Review by Linny

These are two plays by Guillermo Calderón brought by Teatro Playa.  They are performed in Spanish with English sub-titles.

Villa is a forensic and often highly fraught discussion between the three-member sub-committee convened to determine how best to present the notorious Villa Grimaldi – a death camp used under the Pinochet regime – as a memorial for the nation.  The opening revolves around a simple voting process to decide whether to build a bran-new art gallery/museum or to preserve the original building and site.  This rapidly disintegrates into a highly charged debate, as it has so many times before apparently,

It is perfectly clear that the issues involved are immense and that the committee are burdened not only by their own personal trauma but by the responsibility they carry in relation to the history of their country.  In addition there is the financial responsibility:  they have €25M to spend on the project.  Can they carry the project forward to ensure that people engage with this violent period of history without being repulsed by its brutality?  Or, do they dare allow future generations to reconstruct the events through their own imagination in a way that would be more effective?  The fundamental question here is about how to convey authenticity through a cultural artefact.

It takes a long time to emerge that the three women are indirect victims of the acts perpetrated at Villa.  They are all the products of rape and in one case the relationship between mother and daughter is profoundly compromised as the daughter resembles her father not her mother.  The long discourses throws up the many contradictory emotions they feel.  They long to be released from the pain of the past and yet at the same time they want to be avenged by making sure that the memorial tells the whole awful story complete with every reconstructed detail.  What is the alternative?  The alternative is the gleaming white art gallery/museum that sits at the bottom of a mountain somewhere.  Rows of MACs will store the details of every victim together with the details of what they might have become had they lived.  On the top floor there is a pen for a guard dog of the breed used at the camps for raping the victims.  There is subtle massaging of the story going on here.   How could this friendly dog be arapist?  At the end we are still not sure what decision has been made.  We can see why, however, it took so many years for the Ground Zero memorial to be completed.

Discurso is the imaginary exit speech of President Michelle Bachalet – the first female president of Chile in office from 2006 – 2010.  It is an off-the-cuff stream of consciousness about her background, its contradictory elements, its violence (her father, a General, was murdered) and her achievements and her failures in office.  It is an effective monologue about the intensely competing demands of public life and the entrenched interests and complex history of Chile.

4/5 WIGS

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