Language can take you on a journey. Through stories we can explore the histories, cultures, and struggles of people across continents and ages. In a more literal sense language, or rather translation, can bring these stories to new audiences, many miles away from their source.
In Cuzco, an unnamed couple journey to Peru. He hopes to rekindle the spark in their relationship. What she wants is unclear. As the two travel from one exotic locale to another they are driven apart by argument, recrimination, and her new-found discovery of a mystic purpose that he cannot comprehend and has little patience to entertain.
Sounds great, right? Cuzco has all the elements of a fantastic play, with thought-provoking ideas, stellar performances, and minimal yet effective set and sound design that features a gradually deconstructed bedroom, and music that shifts from eerie ambience to evocative folk.
My main problem with Cuzco is its intensity. The play sustains such a high level of tension for such a long amount of time that it is difficult to engage with the characters and their problems. While William Gregory deserves credit for his beautiful translation of Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez’s play, the language is so soaring and grandiose that it often took me out of the drama. Without this connection, the play often seemed more ridiculous than magical.
To speak of positives, I cannot fault Dilek Rose nor Gareth Jones, who are likeable company even when they are shouting each other down and waxing lyrical. I was also impressed with Kate O’Connor’s direction and Stephanie Williams’s design, who both managed to convey the emotional and physical journeys of the characters through a smart use of space, set, and visuals. However, these aspects alone were not enough to bring me into the world of the play, nor convince me of its power.
Cuzco has travelled some way to arrive on an English stage. It is unfortunate that the play, translated from Spanish, should have got so lost along the way. Cuzco is richly poetic, powerfully performed, creatively directed, and yet totally baffling – leaving me with a lot to think about, but not all that much to enjoy.
Author: Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez (trans. by William Gregory)
Director: Kate O’Connor
Producer: Daisy Hale
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Booking Link: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/cuzco/
Booking Until: Saturday 16 February