Writer and Creator: The Company
Company : Théâtre sans Frontières, with Teatro Tamaska
Director : Carlos Belda
Reviewer: Michael Gray
A multinational audience for this new and original piece, presented in happy collaboration. It started in Hexham, and is on a small-scale UK tour before setting sail for Tenerife, home of Teatro Tamaska and the much-prized Malmsey wine, which gives the show its title.
“Who are the real pirates ?” is the tag-line, and much play is made with the immoral connection between Drake’s plunderings, the exploitation of the wine-growers, the Madeira forgery scandal and contemporary financial fraudsters, some of whom now inhabit the Thames Wharf where the Canary came ashore.
Carlos Belda’s production has a lovely simple set; geometric blocks make stylised sailboats, with an evocative soundscape and back-projection, and a well integrated screen for the surtitles. But the company of four often seem uncomfortable in the space, struggling to time the entrances or apply the brakes. This, and some hesitation with lines and some unnecessary translation, tend to slow an already long piece.
That said, the central theme is fascinating, and we lap up the history lessons and the crudish satire. There are some lovely moments – the virtuoso wine-tasting and the surreal Puccini for the golden Virgin Queen (both brilliantly done by Sophie Millon). and the carousel of mis-selling involving money men – and women – across the globe. The tea party, with John Cobb’s excellent Sir Humphrey-ish PM, could have been much funnier, with tauter text and timing.
The cast change costume, and language, to bring us a host of colourful characters, most of them rogues. Josefa Suárez is a modest Parisian woman, seeking to set a foot on the property ladder, later the falsificadora behind the fake bottles, and Paddy Burton convinces effortlessly as a smooth-talking “expert”.
The writing is a joint effort, involving no fewer than six. There are clever money metaphors, familiar soundbites about bankers, arcane acronyms (SWAG and NINJAs ?) and, in the second half, a telling sequence of confessions from the four characters mixed up in the “investment opportunity” that is Canary Gold. Other dodgy bottles come from the (real-life hoard of false Madeira, allegedly part of a shipment to one Thomas Jefferson to help him toast the first American Independence Day.
A full-bodied little show, with after-notes of Le Grand Magic Circus and Enron, ending with a rousing rendition of Money (That’s What I Want). A tasty blend of English, French and Spanish makes for a atisfying mouth-feel, though it probably needs to mature a little more. I hope it will travel well to Tenerife.