EFR - Reviews of El Britanico! (Wrestling Reality)

El Britanico! (Wrestling Reality)

Mon 11th – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Hannah Blythe

at 10:10 on 13th Aug 2014

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El Britanico! (Wrestling Reality) was not what I expected. The play was advertised as having a ‘balance of humour and pathos.’ Instead, I sat through a solidly depressing hour of theatre! The play focussed upon an ex-Mexican wrestler’s failure to come to terms with his disability and troubled past. Confined to a drab living room, Terry (Adam Brockie) continually thrashed out at his well-meaning wife (Kirsten Jayne Taylor) as he descended into madness. The play culminated in distressing domestic scenes and ended without hope.

El Britanico! did touch upon some interesting subject matter. The challenges of coming to terms with a troubled past and a new disability provided much food for thought. Indeed, difficult subject matter and unhappy endings do make some of the greatest theatre out there. However, the very darkest of plays rely upon comic relief to break the tension and to humanise their characters. El Britanico! did not strike the right balance. The play proved relentlessly miserable.

Still, there is much to be commended about El Britanico! Brockie was a strong leading actor. He maintained effective characterisation throughout, and I was impressed by his ability to communicate Terry’s utter dejection. Unfortunately, Brockie’s fellow cast members did not always offer the same standard of performance. And my only criticism of Brockie is the inconsistency of his accent, which fluctuated between generic Northern and Brummie.

The play’s dialogue did trouble me at times. I got the impression that Terry’s politically incorrect and uneducated remarks were a stereotypical hack used to represent his working class background.

However, the production made interesting use of audience interaction. At one point, El Britianco’s audience became the crowd for Terry’s book promotion. Brockie chatted to the crowd in character, and I even obtained his autograph! I liked this engaging twist. It leant the play a sense of spontaneity, which made me root deeper for Terry to overcome his demons.

‘El Britanico!’ had promise. The subject matter was interesting and, generally speaking, the acting was strong. However, the play was in much need of some light relief to break up the tension. A little humour would have endeared us to Terry more, offered a little hope, and ultimately increased the pathos.

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Ben Horton

at 10:16 on 13th Aug 2014

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“I’m a right bastard ent I?” It was hard to disagree with the self-diagnosis of washed up wrestler Terry, a.k.a. El Britanico. The audience were hardly left feeling uplifted by this depressing tale of one man’s descent into madness because of his inability to cope with the fame, and abuse, that defined his past.

Wheel-chair bound Terry (played by Alex Brockie) was a seismic presence at the heart of all the action, at once a figure burning with barely contained rage which bubbled over in sporadic outbursts and yet a man to be pitied. For much of the play it was hard to truly sympathise with him, despite his disability and clear depression, as he was abhorrent to his caring but tiring wife Debbie (played by Kirstian Jayne Taylor) and frequently told supposedly jokey anecdotes which revealed his bigoted nature. Dependent on cheap cider, cigarettes, and prescription drugs he oscillated between psychologically torturing Debbie and wallowing in his own self-pity. He was a truly unlikeable character, masterfully conveyed by Brockie whose only flaw was the indistinct “northern” accent he used; an accent which only someone from further south would find convincing.

The action shifted from scenes with Debbie and Terry to scenes featuring the journalist Angela, the voluptuous and fawning self-proclaimed lifetime fan of El Britanico who seemed too good to be true. As it turned out she wasn’t true, merely a figment of Terry’s increasingly deluded imagination. This was quite artfully concealed for much of the early action, although the character of Angela seemed quite contrived and one-dimensional from the start. The limitations of the script, and at this point also Terry’s egotistical mind, accounted for this artificial feeling however and [actress name] played the role of flirtatious and obsequious flatterer with aplomb.

The staging was imaginative, with an evocative mix of sound effects, voice recordings, and TV replays of wrestling bouts which helped to divide up the action and slightly relieve the oppressive tension. A bit of audience participation also lightened the tone briefly as Terry magnanimously gave out autographs (tragically, I was left without one), but it was unclear whether a lighter tone was needed or appropriate. This was a powerfully dark production which left a bitter taste in the mouth. For a show that challenges rather than entertains, try El Britanico.

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