I may make myself unpopular with this statement, but I think Theatre Ad Infinitum’s latest piece, Bucket List, is disappointing.
There’s no doubting the talent of the cast, and there’s plenty to be awed by: the show takes in storytelling, movement, music and musicianship, while tackling an important social and political issue – namely corporate and governmental corruption in Mexico. The main character, the young and poor Milagros, is confronted with how to address the injustice suffered by her family; and as small as she is in the grand scheme of things, she sees no option but to turn to violence.
Theatre Ad Infinitum is an ambitious company, but I wonder whether they’re trying to do too much here. Of course, taking on a political cause via a theatrical show is not unusual at the Fringe, and there are various successful examples on offer this year. In this case, however, I don’t think the story of Milagros and her quest for justice transmits powerfully enough alongside the performers’ portrayal of an oppressive regime.
Two people beside me on the day I attended would disagree: they gave a standing ovation and said a clearly heartfelt ‘thank you’. I wondered if perhaps they were Mexican, and had found welcome expression of issues close to their hearts. However, personal knowledge of corruption in Mexico – and the adverse impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Mexican people – is clearly beyond the range of awareness of the average Fringe audience.
There are some excellent performances, including the woman who represents the American president delivering a speech proclaiming the virtues of NAFTA for the USA. Unfortunately though, while it’s capably and credibly delivered with a sense of irony, a political speech is a political speech – and this is a long one, perhaps inevitably losing my attention before its end.
In terms of physical theatre, the movement in this show brings some interest, but is secondary to the main medium of dialogue. This for me obviates the potential triumph of physical theatre in expressing its message without saying it, even transcending the spoken word – as this company proved so well with Translunar Paradise back in 2011.
Maybe I shouldn’t have attended expecting another Translunar Paradise; the company does say that it will always do something different. With this commitment to experimentation, some shows will work better for certain audiences than others. And I’m sorry to say this one just didn’t work for me.