Friday, 21 April 2017

REVIEW: Bucket List ★★★★ at Birmingham Rep

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Bucket List ★★★★

Birmingham Rep
Thursday 20th April 2017

We found ourselves in Birmingham for the first time since the 90s and the place is having a make over. It was always a canny place to visit but it now is getting a clean up too. The Rep was renovated in 2013 and is now connected to a library which looks like a giant wedding cake - at least it is easy to spot.

As with a visit to any new theatre there is a tendency for us to comment about the building and this is no different. The staff were all very polite. There were bag searches before entry into The Door (a 140 capacity studio venue) at this matinee performance. I noted blue lighting in the gents too. Perhaps this venue isn’t as calm as it was on a Thursday afternoon? The other odd thing was the annoying “shushing” sound from a number of the audience as the lights went down when no one was actually talking. Perhaps theatre protocols differ from town to town? Still, the Rep is a nice venue to see theatre

On to the play itself. Bucket List was written and directed by Nir Paldi and was first performed in Edinburgh in 2016. It is a powerful drama looking at the effects on the low paid Mexican workers and the awful ways in which protest is suppressed. It is certainly strong stuff for a age recommendation of 14+ as police attack, murder and rape victims of a cruel system.

Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico with the principal that, as Mexicans spend $450 on American goods a year, it should create American jobs. What actually happened is that many companies across the globe took advantage of the lack of worker’s rights in Mexico and set up Maquiladoras - assembly factories.

Maria (Deborah Pugh) is sick of both the treatment of workers and the pollution in the local river. She has been threatened with murder if she continues to protest and she tries to persuade her daughter Milagros (Tamsin Clarke) to be careful as she plays outside.  Matters become more serious when work colleague Teresa (Charlotte Dubery) decides to go to the police to report that she is raped by Silva (Shamira Turner), the factory manager. Her severed head is discovered by the children as they play outside.

The set is very simple. A curtain made of plastic strips, like those found in a factory separates the action on stage with some atrocities off stage. All objects, including severed heads and chess sets, are invisible - relying entirely on the descriptive powers of the actors and the imaginations of the audience. Whilst Tamsin Clarke remains as Milagros, the central character, the other 5 actors have to perform multiple roles. This works well and is not confusing as the script makes each situation perfectly clear. There is some interesting movement by the cast from movement director George Mann.

The production is well cast as each member of the ensemble does well to keep the pace going. The writing is sharp and leaves the audience thinking about the issues discussed. BY not going for easy shots Nir Paldi’s piece is a good afternoon’s entertainment too. Well worth seeing.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Remaining Tour Dates:
21 Apr | Paint the Town Festival, Medway
Venue, Times and Prices
24 Apr | The Space, Sevenoaks School Performing Arts Centre
The Lodge Sevenoaks School, High St, Sevenoaks TN13 1HU | Times and Prices TBC | | 01732 467765
25 Apr | The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
The Friars, Canterbury CT1 2AS | 8pm | £12.50 (£11.50 concs) | | 01227 787 787
26 – 27 Apr | The Lowry, Salford Quays
Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ | 8pm | £16.50 – £14.50 | 0843 208 6010

28 – 29 Apr | Looping the Loop Festival, Thanet
Venue, Times and Prices

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