Writer: Dario Fo
Director: Alessandra Vannucci
Reviewer: Rachel Vogel
The Public Reviews Rating:
Running since 2007, CASA Festival was designed to bridge the gap between Latin American theatre and theatre in the UK. For their 2012 festival, CASA have sourced companies from countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina, encouraging artists and audiences alike to engage with a culturally pertinent array of performance art.
A Descoberta das Americas (The Discovery of the Americas) has been presented more than five hundred times across the world and to over two hundred thousand audience members. Choreographed and performed by Julio Adriâo, this work is a ninety-minute narrative dictating the conquest of the Americas through the eyes of the protagonist, one Johan Panam, a “good-for-nothing” who finds himself on the same ship as Columbus. In the story, Panam is captured by a native tribe, prepped for slaughter, but with a fantastical turnaround of events, finds himself worshipped and becomes a warrior.
Creative and direct, a story spanning years is condensed into a variety of simple images which embellish what would have otherwise been a tedious and stomach-churning experience. Such a swashbuckling tale devised into a simple theatre work is amazing unto itself, and Adriâo is a compelling performer.
With an empty stage, minimal lighting and no music, Adriâo commanded the stage with both voice and movement, delicately layering movement repetition to encourage the audience’s understanding of the work. Dance movement functions on a scale from pure representation (mime) to abstraction and Adriâo creates his piece cleverly treading a path between the two extremes, playing most with representation. One repetitious movement involves Adriâo being on a boat, rising and bending with the lilt of a ship, making minimal noises to accompany the movement. Simple yet effective, these movements build the work and add an enticing aspect of humour.
Spoken entirely in Portuguese, an element of the performance was lost on those in the audience without an understanding of Portuguese. Adriâo’s voice was clear and punctuated, and those who could understand the language responded with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the physicality of this performer is engaging, though it may seem too long. Before the performance began, a ten minute prologue spoken in English helped enormously in the understanding of the work, and though it didn’t carry through to the end, was an appreciated contribution.
Julio Adriâo is a confident and experienced theatre performer, an effective example of how to develop a solo narrative performative piece. For a culturally diverse experience, this performance, and the CASA Festival in general provides an interesting platform to broaden your viewing experience, though perhaps more for those blessed with more than one language.