Have you heard of Manuela Sáenz? Critically acclaimed play Manuelita shines light onto the unsung revolutionary heroine. Scarlett Sullivan
Based on the life story of Manuela Sáenz, a revolutionary activist who campaigned alongside Simón Bolívar, Manuelita artfully combines comedy with tragedy in a poignant tale of love during the Latin American Wars of Independence.
Brought to the stage by Popelei Theatre, Manuelita leads us through the life of Manuela (who Bolívar called the “Libertadora del libertador”) as she rises up the ranks towards the prestigious position of Colonel, or as she likes to call herself, ‘la gran coronela’.
Writer/director Tamsin Clarke perfectly embodies the fiery Manuela, managing to effortlessly captivate the audience using merely a few props. Venezuelan-born Clarke’s understanding of Manuela clearly runs deeper than many historical accounts, as the actress took her own journey across South America retracing the steps of her eponymous protagonist. As a result, Clarke brings the complexities of Manuela’s life alive, accompanied by Colombian guitarist Camilo Menjura, named ‘Musician of the Year’ at the 2013 Latin UK Awards.
Despite the witticisms and humour of the play, the underlying themes of love and loss in a story which bears great historical significance are hard to ignore, leaving the audience inspired to stand up for what they believe in.
Supported by the 2013 Latin American Theatre Festival Scratch Award, Manuelita has achieved great success, being warmly received at The 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. The play also received support from London’s Bolívar Hall and continues to gain admiration and praise from critics. With Menjura’s natural musical flair complementing Clarke’s dynamic acting, I can safely say that it is praise well-deserved.
Catch Manuelita in its final night at Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre: http://thewardrobetheatre.com/livetheatre/manuelita/