A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!





Head for Heights presents




Carolyn Pickles, Claire Cogan, Anne Marie Cavanah in Beasts at Theatre 503


Written by Juan Radrigán


Directed by Sue Dunderdale


Theatre 503


 30 Aug - 24 Sept 2011



Beasts is a powerful and comically touching character-based piece which re-imposes the intensity of one location, linguistic theatre. Focusing on the claustrophobia of living in a shrinking world, it uses the opposing perspectives of three sisters to illuminate the danger of isolation and explore the impossibility of living outside of the dominant 'progressive' globalised community.
By limiting the play to a single location - the sisters' mountain hut - the audience's imagination is induced to create the inhospitable Andes, precious livestock and absolute separation in eerie vividness. While the sisters distractedly rearrange the rustic boards which make up their lair, a feeling of doom settles into the space which no number of city-made kashmir tops can alleviate. As the undirected hope of Luciana crashes up against the defeatist leadership of the eldest Justa, middle-sister Lucia attempts a confused mediation of a situation which holds no answers. The juxtaposition of Sean O'Callaghan's bustling intrusion as the travelling salesman Don Javier with the sisters' introspection reveals just how a subsistence lifestyle can be so imperceptibly tormenting. Don Javier's albeit, disingenuous compliments to the sisters' beauty are scorched by Justa's caustic intolerance for the modern world, and the sadness of being led by fear is achingly evident.

Catherine Boyle's inventive translation into pastoral Irish not only makes the piece more relatable, but brings a black humour so associated with the disenfranchised peripheries of the British Isles. The language brings out Luciana's femininity, Lucia's loyalty and Justa's protective passion all at once. It informs the fatalistic undertones of the content while giving buoyancy to the text which shirks off depression and tiredness. Anne Marie Cavanah, Claire Cogan and Carolyn Pickles all find their own brand of Irishness the incompatibility of which can be more than excused for the sake of prioritizing heartfelt characters.

Sue Dunderdale's confidence as a director is shown in her willingness to let the script do the work. The tension builds slowly, but catalyzed by the rugged, beautiful and tragic all-wooden set, the audience feel both the sparseness and inescapability of the situation. By accentuating Lucia's pseudo-stoic matter-of-factness, we realise the certainty of Luciana's fate – she has no confidant besides her own urges and has no frame of reference to aspire to.

It’s difficult to note all the questions raised by Beasts, it is at once a call to build a more responsible, thoughtful wider society but equally shows the perilous of lack of knowledge which comes from an obsession to deny change. Ultimately, the sisters' downfall is the fault of a young white man who raped Justa when she was 17, thereby instilling in her a hatred of all foreign contact and anything to do with the city. In a richer network, such traumas have been known to be assuaged with time and discussion, but not in these mountains, where time is itchingly circular, and discussion limited to when to bring the goats in.

This is the first production of Beasts in the UK and its’ beauty and poignancy beg for more Chilean translations. Make sure you catch this production in the cosy Theatre 503 though, as its claustrophobic intimacy demands a smaller stage.



Carolyn Pickles, Anne Marie Cavanah in Beasts at Theatre 503

Box Office: 020 7978 7040 / www.theatre503.com
Theatre503 at The Latchmere
503 Battersea Park Road
London SW11 3BW
Tuesday - Saturday @ 7.45pm, Sunday @ 5.00pm, Aug 30 - Sept 24
Tickets:  £14/ £9



Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved