STARDUST

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Marie-Louise Wohrle

at 09:09 on 13th Aug 2018

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Writer Daniel Dingsdale and actor Miguel Hernando Torres Umba of Blackboard Theatre have created an ambitious and incredible show with ‘Stardust’. Torres Umba is a very charismatic performer and knows how to animate, fascinate, and draw in an audience. His performance is supported beautifully by well-chosen background music and sound effects, and animations projected onto a screen on stage. The animations were creatively used, as Torres Umba performed part of his physical theatre behind the projection, visible as a dimly-lit silhouette and becoming a part of the animations. This provides beautiful and intense visuals to accompany voiceovers and live performance.

‘Stardust’ combines a variety of storytelling styles, from stand-up, to lecture, to dance - even to a gameshow - to tell the stories of cocaine use in Colombia. The gameshow for me stood out the most. It was titled “Plata ó plomo”, and detailed the production chain of cocaine. An audience member was invited on stage to play a drug mafia boss. Forcing the audience member and wider audience to choose between money and death to achieve maximum cocaine profit, paired with Torres Umba’s eccentric gameshow host act, left a jarring and memorable impression. Other highlights for me included the re-enactment of the effects of taking cocaine through an incredible physical performance, and the intense, incredibly strong monologue and performance Torres Umba delivered on the effects prejudice and stereotypes have on people.

'Stardust' is incredibly serious, but also incredibly captivating, and it's various aspects complement each other. The gameshow chants of “We’re not there” to explain not caring about Colombia’s fate contrast with the message of the show that we are all connected, and help bring said message to the audience without presenting it like a lecture on morals. There are some moments that perhaps are too drawn out, but overall the show is emotional, gripping and educational, while also entertaining. I only really noticed how caught up I had been in the world created by ‘Stardust’ when I left the theatre, and felt abruptly shaken up by the bright lights and bustling atmosphere of the Pleasance Dome.

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Melissa Tutesigensi

at 09:36 on 13th Aug 2018

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You are probably aware of the stereotypes associated with Columbia. The narcos and all it ruthlessness and violence. This stereotype, while rooted in some truth as every stereotype is, does not tell the full story. This is what Blackboard Theatre emphasise with ‘Stardust’. The team behind the production have put together a spectacular and important piece of physical theatre involving dance, animation and audience participation to bring the story of cocaine trafficking to life. Miguel Hernando Torres Umba is the front man of this show and brings his full energy to the performance. ‘Stardust’ demonstrates that the journey from “the leaf to the line” is complicated, difficult and heart breaking. Like it or not, we are all complicit.

It is all too tempting to distance ourselves from overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable issues, but the moment we see and accept the part that our society plays is the moment we can start to develop a solution. The profound message of ‘Stardust’ is that, not only is the devastation that the cocaine trade incurs far reaching, but its proliferation depends on the consumer. Even if you have never snorted a line, just by knowing someone who has you are involved. This show is an education, a refreshing perspective on a story that is often told with a western, and often white, narrative to appease a western, and often white, audience in order to avoid responsibility. See the Netflix hit ‘Narcos’ for reference. It is important to tell these stories and to have these voices to combat the dominant and misguided narratives. In this way, ‘Stardust’ is more than just a piece of theatre to entertain – it is significant. I was sat on the edge of my seat, ears pricked, neck craned, completely and utterly captivated.

The power of the story was perfectly matched by the quality of production. It was narrated in a sublimely creative way. One moment we were playing the game show ‘Plato o Plomo’ and in the next we were watching clips from a video. Umba played many different parts, whether he was expressing the effects that cocaine has on the body or delivering a brief history of cocaine in a fast pace. A particular stand out moment was when he became the ‘bad hombre’, as typified by the likes of President Trump, full to the brim with caricature. Each mechanism used to tell the story was masterfully done. It was clever, it was dynamic and it was powerful. You should go to see ‘Stardust’ for the message alone as that in itself provides so much of the potency of the production. But, if you choose to go, you will also be treated to a remarkable display of theatre that will not fail to entertain you. Pleasance Dome is the place to find the magic of ‘Stardust’. I challenge you not to feel compelled afterwards.

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