This unusual production, performed in Portuguese, is as near to the knuckle as it’s going to get in exploration of ethical and moral choices. We meet six characters, all of different standing in the world, a fact which inevitably brings its positional power base with it too. They all happen to be in the same corridor in a hospital when a highly emotional young man appears with a gun.
The same scenario is played over a number of times, a different character taking the lead on each occasion, and we see how their value system and principles affect the situation. The question underlying the whole piece seems to be a deeply uncomfortable one: which one of them is of the least value to society, and can most easily be dispensed with.
And sure enough, the dilemmas posed by the piece got me thinking – in true Big Brother elimination style – about which characters I thought deserved to live or die. With so many different levels of corruption running through the storylines, I found it hard not to take the moral high ground. More than once in the performance, I was surprised at how low some of the characters would stoop to exploit the power that they held.
Theatrically this was a visually pleasing production, with weighty and meaningful performances from every member of the Brazilian troupe. The strobe lighting and electric guitar music which punctuated the action only served to heighten the dramatic effect. One of the highlights for me was a funeral scene, where the whole cast seemed to be made up as grotesque and wayward clowns, playing a vast array of instruments together. It was like a sudden intrusion from a horror film.
But unfortunately, I was a little frustrated by the positioning of the surtitles. The screen was just too small, and was even trickier to see if you were seated near the front, as the actors were sometimes innocently blocking the view. Worse though was the fact that I could not take my eyes of the screen for a second, or else I would miss a detail of the story. And when the performers were so physically striking and passionate, I wanted to watch their every move. It’s sad that I was unable to.
Saying all that, you know that a piece of theatre has done its job when you begin to discuss it with total strangers before you even leave the auditorium. This was a provocative and thought provoking play, with the message that everyone may in fact have their price – and that for some, it’s much cheaper than others.