Pros: Both crushing and funny; informative and heartfelt.
Cons: At times the sound drowned out the actor, and the use of audience participation needs work.
Stardust began with Miguel Hernando Torres Umba debating aloud whether or not to snort a line of coke. I wondered just how experimental this piece was going to be as the audience around me advised Miguel on how much to cut into a line and cheered him on with cries of “DO IT!”
Most people know a little about cocaine; the Fun Facts, if you like. Such as that it used to be an ingredient in Coca-Cola, and also that it used to be available for purchase in the king of Knightsbridge stores, Harrods. People still have an idea of the narco trade informed by TV shows whose purpose is usually, in one way or another, to glamourise the drug world as being full of bad-ass men (it is more commonly men to be seen in this racket) loaded with money and guns sitting on an empire; Netflix’s Narcos has been trending for three years now. If ever a title got right to the point. It is this cultural representation that provoked Miguel into creating Stardust, which reveals the stigma left on both the man and his country, Columbia, by narco production.
Originally created with the support of CASA Festival 2017, Stardust incorporates lecture, movement, manic game show, projection, animation and audience participation. The result is a piece that, at moments, took my breath away with its information and visuals. I found the use of animated projections superbly effective as they were perfectly timed to synchronise with the actor’s body so he became part of the animation; not easy to accomplish.
If any element of the show needs refining, the use of audience participation could use some fine-tuning. This is nit-picking though, and difficult to explain in few words. The lady brought onstage as the game show contestant for ‘Plata O Plomo’ (‘silver or lead’ or ‘accept this money or get shot’), had to shout out either Plata or Plomo when asked to choose between them based on a scenario, which she did. For the rest of the time she was left looking awkward while Miguel explained her answer. Five minutes is a long time to be onstage with nothing to do when you haven’t necessarily chosen to be there. I couldn’t help but feel the audience as a whole could have been encouraged to shout a guess rather than pull one person up, as there was no real need for anyone else to be onstage.
Behind a few minutes of recreational high flying lie decades of suffering, and the very fact of that suffering occurring Somewhere Else makes it easy to ignore. Blackboard Theatre have created an informative, beautiful and exceptionally moving piece on an extremely difficult topic. More than highly recommended.
Creators: Miguel Hernando Torres Umba and Blackboard Theatre
Writer: Daniel Dingsdale
Performer: Miguel Hernando Torres Umba
Associate Director: Alexander Ferris
Booking Until: This show has completed its run.
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/stardust/