Platero Y Yo

Tue 7th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

April Elisabeth Pierce

at 22:41 on 7th Aug 2012

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Nestled somewhere between pageantry and carnival, this performance of “Platero y Yo” is a whimsical approach to the poet’s vision of life and death. The fables and foibles of Platero, a young donkey, are strung together in impressionistic vignettes, featuring themes of social conflict, nature, liberty, and finally death. Narrated by his friend and guide, the Poet (Victor G. Colón), Platero (the hilarious and amicable Jonathan Amaro) experiences the fascinations and tragedies of the human (and animal) condition, as expressed by an ensemble of magical characters and qualities. Lessons are learned sequentially, and each scene involves a moral, such as the insight that “All living things have the right to be happy, and no one should violate their dignity”.

The University of Puerto Rico’s Travelling Theatre may have drawn a modest audience, but some of the theatregoers I spoke to had come from very far abroad, claiming to have already heard of this unique performance. Though no translation from Spanish was on offer, the stories nevertheless felt accessible. Repetition and embellished facial expressions served as a map through the interwoven scenes and tropes, and a programme with an overview of the plot was available. Abrupt moments of off-stage dancing contributed to the excitement and interest, without feeling pushy. Major motifs, such as the violence of man against nature, were impossible to misinterpret.

Attention to the subtleties of sight and sound was clearly evidenced. The great strength of the production was its use of dramatic body language, bright clothing, and distinct props (masks and guitars were placed thoughtfully throughout the scenes, without feeling superfluous). Anthropomorphic visions of spirited rivers and rocks were created by dancers huddled under green fabric, for instance, or snapping and clapping to express the crackling of fire. Collective utterances were synchronistic and powerful -- deep bellows contrasted with sharp cries of alarm or surprise.

Less invigorating than the body language and dialogue was the troupe’s singing, which faltered a bit too often, and regularly felt flat in comparison to the strength of the other vocalisations. However, the intimacy of the experience was defined by raw articulation, rather than rehearsed harmonics. Although the show might have been a challenge to those without a working knowledge of Spanish, this performance was on the whole a fanciful, imaginative treat - guaranteed to inspire!

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Emma Yandle

at 09:46 on 8th Aug 2012

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This play is in Spanish, but even without a command of the language I thoroughly enjoyed it. This review will necessarily be atypical, able to give little sense of the dramatic progression and no sense of the dialogue. I don’t actually think that matters. Having come away with such a strong impression of the production despite all this, there must be a real merit to seeing theatre this way. With so much wit going on in Edinburgh it was almost a relief to just focus on seeing things, being released from the pressure of fathoming words. It actually seemed extremely fitting for a production that was brought alive through the cast’s bodies, with a chorus that became everything from animals to flowers to nightmarish contorted shapes.

In a performance that was vigorous and captivating, Puerto Rico’s official representation at the Fringe staged an adaptation of Juan Ramón Jiménez’s 1917 prose tale of a wandering poet and his donkey, Platero. The programme explains the divide into vignettes (in English) and very briefly gives its moral. In brightly coloured outfits it was like an exotic Aesop’s fable catapulted into a flamboyant world that tripped seamlessly from visions of dreamy landscapes to hellish scenes with cackling, flailing creatures. It was physical, farcical and a feast for the eyes although I didn’t understand a word. Slickly directed, the chorus didn’t seem to enter or exit but to appear, changing props and guises a mile a minute. There were elements of dance, live music and group singing, all cleverly used to express beauty as well as moments of hideous violence. There were some exceptional moments of physical theatre, in particular when the chorus transformed the stage into a sea, or became a spitting fire.

In a conversation with co-director María Eugenia Mercado afterwards, she explained that in showing the birth to death of the donkey Platero they were depicting the life cycle. Although Jiménez is Spanish, the work became very popular in Latin America and I would have been interested to know if the issues the script draws on were felt to have a particular national resonance. 'Platero Y Yo' was a great way to start the morning and I highly recommend catching it before it ends its short run on the 11th.

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