Thursday, 12 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Death And The Maiden - Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool.


Death & The Maiden is being performed at The Hope Street Theatre, which is situated in one of the back rooms at The Masonic Building. It’s a lovely building, full of character and great architecture.

Death & The Maiden was written by Chilean playwright, Ariel Dorfman. It’s a highly respected play as it won The Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1992. It has since become a great piece of theatre ever since it was first performed.

Margaret Connell directed Death & The Maiden and did an excellent job bringing the classic play to life on the stage. Her direction was tight, and very controlled. All her enthusiasm and dedication were demonstrated incredibly well thoroughout the play. It’s such a difficult subject matter to do in the theatre, but I thought Connell added a great sense of realism in her direction of the play. The narrative of the story was extremely hard-hitting and raw, it never shied away from the difficult subject matter of the play.

Siobhan Noble produced Death & The Maiden with arrangement with Samuel French. She did a great job producing the play with the stunning set. No expense was spared, as the set looked fantastic. All the hard work was clearly displayed in the performance of the play. The production values were really good.

The cast of the play only consisted of three characters, Paulina Escobar (Emma Bird), Gerado Escobar (Phil Perez) and Doctor Robert Miranda (Pete Cuffe). Always nice to have a really small, tight cast as the narrative of the story and characters can be fully developed and explored.

Paulina Salas was a former prisoner in an unnamed Latin American county, where she was repeatly tortured and raped by her captors, led by a sadistic doctor, whose face she never saw, but only heard his voice. The rapist doctor played Schubert’s String Quartet Number 14, during the acts of rape, hence the play’s title.

Several years later, after the repressive regime had fallen, Paulina lived in an isolated country house with her now husband, Gerado Escobar. One particular night, Gerado was returning home from visiting the President, when he had a flat type on his vehicle. A stranger, named Doctor Roberto Miranda approached him and offered his assistance, which he accepted. Doctor Robert Miranda drove Gerado home and later that night, he returned.

Whilst in the back garden, to her absolute horror, Paulina recognised The Doctor’s voice immediately and his mannerisms of the sadistic doctor, who led the torture and rape of her years earlier. In a fit of absolute hatred and anger, she took him captive at gun point, in order to put him on trial and extract a confession from him.

Unconvinced of his guilt, Gerado acts as the Doctor’s lawyer and attempted to save his life. After hearing the full horrific story and details of his wife’s captivity, Gerado formulated a plan to get a confession from The Doctor to appease Paulina’s madness and release him. She wanted him to admit his awful part in her torture and rape several years earlier, so she can attempt to rebuild her life.

Bird’s portrayal of Paulina was harrowing to watch at times, but she did an excellent job playing the deeply, troubled wife, who had suffered so much in the past and still suffering now. Her stage presence was very strong and conveyed so much emotion in her performance. The running theme of the Death & The Maiden was vengeance, as Paulina wanted her revenge on the Doctor, who led her torture and rape several years earlier.

The set design (Javier Gomez) of Death & The Maiden by Rebecca McGrory was very impressive. A great concept having the stage divided in two parts; the living room and the back garden. Having these two separate areas allowed the characters to have private conservations, without the other character able to hear them. The living room looked extremely affluent with the pieces of different pieces of furniture and props.

Lighting Design by Peter Mitchelson was really good. There was a great contrast between light and darkness demonstrated in the play. As the play was quite dark, this was even more effective with the lighting of the set. Max Wilson did a fantastic job with composing the music and the sound design. I thought the music added a great of sense of tension as the story of the play progressed. The SFX with the sounds of the car were good to hear too.

Tonight’s performance was Pay What You Decide Night, which the audience pay what they think the performance was actually worth, there was an actual amount suggested in the form. Additionally, there was a questionnaire in the form asking the audience what the strengths and weaknesses of the play, the positive or negative feedback, whether they enjoyed the show and if there were any improvements needed for future productions of the play.

Death & The Maiden is well worth seeing, as the narrative of the story is told in such an honest, hard-hitting way and acted by a great cast, with passion and enthusiasm for this classic piece of theatre.

Reviewer - Mark Cooper 
on - 11/9/19

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