A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!








Photo by Claire Bilyard


A new play by Chilean Playwright/Director

Constanza Hola


The Embassy of Chile


3 Aug 2012


Performances to follow:


Camden Fringe - The Camden Head
9 - 12 Aug 2012


Edinburgh Fringe - The Vault (Annexe)
20 - 27 Aug 2012


Two women wait, two women stuck, two women in a ‘constant fight about the meaning of life.’ This is the set-up of Constanza Hola’s one act play Self-Criticism. They are the ego and super-ego, sometimes implied, sometimes character-driven. Blanca (Cornelia Baumann) is reflective, ‘trying to come to terms with loneliness.’ Estela (Sarah Jayne-Harris) makes her entrance from outside and is seemingly more worldly, more daring

We are in the orbit of the whore/virgin debate, When Harry Met Sally and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Writer/director Constanza Hola shapes the narrative through a series of scenes and telephone conversations. The piece echoes Beckett, Sartre and Genet. Yet Hola goes for a contemporary gloss, referencing Canary Wharf, Steve Jobs, using Sex and the City phone rings, in an attempt to meld the ‘now’ with the philosophical.  

There is a ‘man’ figure (Sebastian Concha) who appears in two stylised sequences: in the first he dances, in the second he brings flowers. These are slow motion moments, but as to whether they are Blanca’s romantic re-enactment, or elements of Estela’s more gentle expressiveness, it is difficult to tell.

It is a bold decision to direct your own work, and the performances were occasionally too big for the space. Similarly, the movement sequences seem driven by mechanics rather than chemistry. With a more theatrical setting, lighting, sound and staging the production would fare better. The dialogue veers between old fashioned fairy-tale ‘little by little, my love’ through to banner sound-bites - ‘today is one of those days when I hate the world.’ While Hola experiments with the weighty themes of psychosis, depression, self-harm and suicide.

One of the more positive, theatrical ideas was the use of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: featured in full Ravel treatment one minute, simple piano and sax the next, and in funereal style at the play’s end. The characters use the lyrics throughout in a ‘hunger strike against human stupidity.’ They are intertwined with the dialogue as Estela smears the mirror and her mouth in lipstick. It is a pre-battle ritual before the fight for supremacy, real or imagined. ‘I and me against each other, ego and super-ego overlapped, two women, one life.’ Who wins?   


Photo by Claire Bilyard


In Preview at:
The Embassy of Chile
37 – 41 Old Queen Street
London SW1H 9JA
Camden Fringe / 9 – 12 August / 21.30 / The Camden Head
100 Camden High St  London, NW1 0LU



Edinburgh Fringe / 21 – 27 August / 14.55 / The Vault (Annexe),
11 Merchant Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2QD





Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved