Theatre for Identity, at Calder Bookshop Theatre

  • Theatre
Theatre for Identity, at Calder Bookshop Theatre


Thu, 21/11/2013 - 13:26


John McClear and Linda Miller in Theatre For Identity.
John McClear and Linda Miller in Theatre For Identity
21 November, 2013

NOT long ago in Argentina the sound of a helicopter made people tremble. In the 1970s and 80s, opponents of the dictatorship were pushed from them into rivers or the sea, their corpses occasionally washed up by the surf.

Around 30,000 opponents were “disappeared”, including more than 500 pregnant women murdered after their babies were handed to supporters of the regime.

But their grandmothers never gave up, campaigning for justice and trying to find the missing children.

One of Latin America’s most respected groups, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, also commission plays about the disappeared under a scheme called Theatre for Identity.

Performed across the Spanish-speaking world, the only English versions are at the Calder Bookshop Theatre at The Cut in Waterloo.

This year there are two short plays, Loose Ends and Two Tapes.

The first, by Argentina’s grand-dame of literature Griselda Gambaro, confronts the legacy of collaboration – modern Argentina’s bitter fruit.

An ex-army torturer and the mother of a disappeared girl meet unawares, years later on a cruise liner. When it sinks they share a lifeboat but as the truth emerges, so do the problems of reconciling the past.

John McClear is imposing and menacing as the ex-soldier. He spent 25 years in the military before acting and knows his stuff.

The inconsolable mother whose schoolgirl daughter was murdered by the regime is played with tearjerking pathos by Linda Miller.

In Two Tapes she’s a mother who was tortured and years later contacts her daughter (a brilliant Alexandra Dionelis), who was stolen as a child. It’s based on real tapes a torture victim sent her stolen daughter.

Directing the plays conjured heartbreaking memories for the director, Argentinean Luis Gayol. As a kid he watched convoys of police cars near his hometown.

“We pointed and joked,” he said. “Only when I grew up did I realise they were taking prisoners to the torture chambers, the disappeared.”

His friend Sergio Amigo – also an Argentinean director – recalled bodies washing up on the beach when he was young. “People pretended they were swimmers who’d drowned. It was part of the cover-up,” he said. “Luis went through turmoil directing these plays”.

After the December 6 performance, a grandson of one of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo will speak.

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