Pros: The protagonists are very likeable and can be quite funny.
Cons: The show lacks any kind of structure and feels chaotic. The gazpacho isn’t very good either.
In Spain you can find many types of paella: Valencian, black, vegetarian, marinera… Pretty much something for every taste. Derailed looks like a paella; the problem, though, is that with so many ingredients mixed together it is not really clear what kind of paella it is and whether the rice has been properly cooked.
The show takes place on a colourful and lively stage with plenty of glossy streamers, balloons and lights. Live music, played by Keir Cooper and Dan Lees (the latter also playing some roles in the show) adds atmosphere. The reason for so much pomp and circumstance is that it’s the leaving party of Patricia (Patricia Rodríguez) and Mercè (Mercè Ribot), two young Spanish women who after 12 years living in the UK have decided to leave the country. Why they are leaving Britain is never made clear, and nor is the tone of the party itself: are they happy or sad to be leaving their home of more than a decade? Brexit is mentioned briefly and obscurely on occasions, but we don’t really know if that was the decisive factor that made them bid farewell to the UK.
One thing that is certain, is that the pair want everyone in the audience to have a good time, and for this they make the show as interactive as possible. We are given party poppers and scraps of paper on which to write down the things that make us angry. These are then read out loud to provoke rage at the world’s injustice and lack of politeness. There’s no chance for idleness as Patricia and Mercè make sure that everyone participates in their party.
The two women are indeed funny and it isn’t difficult for them to get laughs from the audience. However, the jokes are mostly slapstick with an overuse and abuse of Manuelesque situations and mockery of accents. The silly sometime borders on the ridiculous: in one of the sketches, Patricia, impersonating money, wrestles with Mercè as the Dalai Lama, in a long and absurd battle which feels quite pointless.
Whether intentional or not, the show lacks a coherent structure and feels like an amalgam of poor improv sketches. Some of it has great potential, as when Young Patricia talks to Present Day Patricia about something that happened to her during the 2015 demonstration in London against government cuts. Someone shouts “why don’t you go and protest in your own country? You have five million people unemployed there!” Young Patricia knows that something isn’t right, that the man is yelling a xenophobic slur at her. However she is unable to articulate a response or channel her anger in a constructive manner. And that’s the end of it. We only see the surface of the problem and we never find out if events like that one were a trigger to make her and Mercè decide to leave the UK. By trying to include as many anecdotes as they can fit in the show, in the end they fail to develop any of them.
At one point during the show, Patricia and Mercè invite the public to make a gazpacho, a traditional Spanish cold vegetable soup. The ingredients are there and they even have the liquidiser plugged in. Once the gazpacho is ready they pour it into tumblers and generously distribute it to the audience. I was lucky enough to taste it but I’m afraid to say that the result wasn’t very good: it was too bland, too lumpy and not well processed. Unfortunately the play feels quite similar.
Author: Little Soldier Productions and Thomas Abela
Director: Ben Kidd & Jesse Briton
Producer: Little Soldier Productions
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/booktickets/derailed?spektrix_bounce=true
Booking Until: 3 March 2018