Holden Street Theatres – The Arch, Fri 28 Oct.
Here in Australia it is easy to forget that countries on the other side of the South Pacific experienced harrowing state led brutality in the relatively recent past, and theatre like this is a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting basic human rights.
Though not specifically referring to any country, Death And The Maiden was written by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman, and is generally regarded as being set in Chile – about 15 years after the overthrow of Pinochet’s military junta. It explores the wounds of a society that has lost any sense of mutual trust among its people. The small cast of three grapples with the instability of Paulina, a survivor of torture under the junta and who decides to take justice into her own hands. The play’s intrigue centres around the chance meeting between Paulina and someone she believes is one of her former torturers. But she is so traumatised by her past that it’s hard to believe her, and her high profile human rights lawyer husband finds himself in a moral bind.
Mundane rituals of daily life are laced with psychotic angst, the soothing sounds of the sea between scenes only seems to amplify the terror, and the melodic strains of Schubert’s Death And The Maiden become a sinister soundtrack of grief. All of this builds great dramatic tension while the audience tries to figure out whether Paulina’s behaviour is justified.
The cast do a fine job of maintaining the required level of emotional intensity but it’s a little on the long side, and may have benefited from an interval. It gets a little tedious toward the end as the unstable Paulina can’t decide what to do with her alleged former antagonist, but ultimately it’s somewhat ambiguous end seems appropriate.
Death And The Maiden is yet another example of intelligent theatre at the consistently high standard that Holden Street Theatres continues to provide.
Death And The Maiden continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Arch from 8pm until Sat Nov 5.
Book at holdenstreettheatres.com and 8225 8888. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Death And The Maiden Facebook Page