Writer: Victor Sánchez Rodriguez
Translator: William Gregory
Director: Kate O’Connor
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Tourists visiting the city of Cuzco, high in the Peruvian Andes, tend to observe that remnants of the Inca civilisation seem to be outliving those of their Spanish conquerors. This 70-minute one-act play, named after that city, likens the legacy of Spanish colonialism to the crumbling relationship of a modern Spanish couple, one of whom develops an obsession for Inca traditions and culture.
This bleak drama by Spanish writer Victor Sánchez Rodriguez, translated by William Gregory, centres on two people who believe that they can refresh their stale relationship by following in the footsteps of their ancestors to South America. “She” (Dilek Rose), at first overcome by altitude sickness, describes herself as being like a “ruined city” and “He” (Gareth Kieran Jones), frustrated by his partner’s vagueness, is drawn into casual promiscuity with fellow tourists.
The play’s opening line comments on hotel rooms all over the world being much the same and Stephanie Williams’ neat set design follows that prompt on a square stage that is the perfect size. Beginning in Cuzco, the rooms are scattered along the descending Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu. As the journey progresses, the couple’s relationship goes downhill too.
Sánchez Rodriguez leaves himself little chance of winning over audiences after a drab opening scene consisting of banal conversations. Having explored the city separately, “She” and “He” relate to each other details of places seen and people met. Neither of them seems particularly interested, but, for us, it is the equivalent of being forced to plough through the holiday snaps of a stranger.
Rose and Jones deliver spirited performances, but the writer does not give the actors enough for them to make us care about their characters. Too many of the exchanges are dull and humourless and, when director Kate O’Connor’s production eventually starts to heat up, it moves in the direction of melodrama. Cuzco attempts find links between history, mysticism and modern reality, but it rarely succeeds and the end result is often baffling and, sadly, boring.
Runs until: 16 February 2019 | Image: Holly Lucas