Pros: This is a hard-hitting thought-provoking piece, with splashes of dark humour.
Cons: This is not for the faint-hearted.
Blackboard Theatre’s production of Pedro and the Captain starts in the queue before anyone even enters the theatre space; I was approached by a lady (Laura Obiols), who told me that her husband Pedro had been taken away by armed men in the night and that no-one had heard from him since.
Knowing that Pedro’s wife was watching too, even after discovering that she was a member of the cast, lends the show an extra dimension. This blurring of the line between reality and fiction, as well as ingeniously setting up the plot before the actors even took to the stage, really gives Pedro and the Captain a thrilling edge.
The Vaults feels the perfect place to stage this show. The simple but effective set, consisting of little more than a stool, a chair and a table in a whitewashed room, seems like it belongs in the dank, hollowed-out and chilly space in the bowels of Waterloo Station. The movement of the sparse furniture is purposeful and brilliantly weighted with symbolism throughout. Luis Bonilla’s sound design, issued in bursts between each scene like a puncture wound, adds to the drama as well.
Mario Benedetti’s play is about the psychological battle between Pedro, a captured revolutionary, and the Captain, a state interrogator. The Captain (David Acton) introduces himself as a ‘good guy’ with the power to stop all the physical torture in the piece. He claims that ‘he is not like the others’. Of course, the audience do not believe him.
Then begins a series of cut scenes where Pedro (Joseph Wilkins) is physically beaten down, yet simultaneously grows mentally stronger. The tortured man becomes torturer as Pedro challenges the Captain and leads him towards a psychological breakdown. It is an amazing reversal superbly realised by Wilkins and Acton, who portray the disturbing intimacy that exists between torturer and victim well.
The only part of the show that breaks with theatrical convention and doesn’t seem to add anything is a short section where the audience is removed from the scene and thrust into the minds of the characters, where more personal memories are relayed. Compared with the subtlety of the rest of the piece, this just feels awkward.
Pedro and the Captain is fantastic, brutal and unrelenting. There is no way to avoid being caught up in the psychological narrative, which grabs you before you even take your seat. There is so much going on in Blackboard Theatre’s production that it will be whirring around my head for weeks. It is a show that speaks of far more than what occurs onstage.
Author: Mario Benedetti
Director: Miguel Hernando Torres Umba
Producer: Matthew Schmolle
Box Office: 0871 220 0260
Booking Link: http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/pedro-and-the-captain/2016-03-02/
Booking until: 6 March 2016