Ella Mattalia saw I’ll melt the snow off the volcano with a match, one of two plays by Lagartijias Tiradas Al Sol which showed at the CASA Latina 2015 Festival; this year CASA focussed on works and artists from Mexico.
This is another biographical tale from Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol. The play is written, devised and acted by Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez, and they are joined by actor Francisco Barreiro.
The premise of this story was decided when Pardo found a one-off publication of The Institutional Revolution, by little-known writer and teacher Natalia Valdez Tejeda. It has been suggested that Tejeda’s disappearance 14 years ago was linked to the controversial political beliefs cited in her book; in this piece the company weaves her story throughout 71 years of corrupt PRI (the ‘centrist’ political party) rule.
The title, a quote by Oaxacan politician Jorge Meixueiro, further underscores the political critique of the play. His analogy of melting the snow off the volcano with a match references the futility in trying to change the ways of the government. Like that of Tejeda, Meixueiro’s story is tainted by tragedy: after being ousted from his victory as federal deputy, he committed a very public suicide in front of congress.
Lagartijas retain a consistent style throughout the performance, using minimalist yet inventive staging that makes great use of multimedia projections of historical clips. Here, their use of masks is more effective than in their previous venture (see Monserrat review), humorously caricaturing former leaders of the PRI. The choice of set design evokes a clever parallel between theatre and politics, highlighting the often farcical nature of government in Mexico, one example being a tower of chairs made into a lectern.
I’ll melt… is the second piece of work I have seen by the Mexican company, and this time we were given further insight into some of their inspirations. However, it seems one of Lagartijias’s consistent weaknesses is the disjointed pacing of their plays. The piece initially runs chronologically, but then abruptly jumps back and forth through time, without apparent justification. Placed alongside jarring shifts between the reality of the PRI’s reign and the imagined life of Tejeda, the approach can become confusing; you begin to lose track of the various threads of the story and are overloaded with information.
Yet this confusion was no doubt partly caused by the language barrier. The delivery is fast-paced, so for the non-Spanish speaker it was at times difficult to decide whether to focus on the english subtitles, the visuals or the performance.
There is certainly something refreshing about Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol. They are very aware of the audience: they laugh with you, have a beer with you and make mistakes, which strangely doesn’t detract from the performance. Although this play tackles dark subject matter, the three actors successfully use satire to lighten the tone, which often makes for hilarious and insightful performance. The play ends on a reflective note, projecting an image of Mexico’s landscape, the real Mexico without the politics. As with other events this year, the performers finish by asking for justice for the disappeared Ayotzinapan students and for the murders of photo journalists in Narvarte.
Pardo and Rodriguez republished Tejeda’s book and they now sell it after every performance.