Tropicalia Island – Arcola Theatre, London

Writer: Fernanda Mandagará

Music: Joana Flor

Director: Ramiro Silveira

Reviewer: Margarita Shivarova

An all-female cast led by Fernanda Mandagarápresents a surreal scenario where all places on Earth except for The Himalayas, The North Pole and Tropicalia Island have survived from “the mud”. A group of refugees (the audience) seek asylum on this very island and find themselves at the point of decision on who will be allowed to stay. The colourful reception received from the helpers commenting on the audience looks as they enter the theatre promises of an engaging production. And indeed, it proves to be half way through the show, especially when a formal Visa interview is held on stage. Guided by a skilful emigration officer, who is also naturally the president of the island, this play puts up a powerful what if scenario cured with a lot of dark humour.

The island’s mating tradition certainly goes among the top of the comic sketches list within the show. The helpers or so-called ex-emigrants and current Tropic-Aliens amuse with their dedication in completing the dance routines. Simultaneously, the look on their faces when their President is not observing them, tells the truth of the torturous, tiresome and not at all tropic-heavenly experience. In contrast, their oldschool blue and white striped swim costumes paired with flowing green and yellow leaf-like skirts undoubtedly brighten up the mood and give a feel of being on an island. The simplistic set comprising of inflatable palms definitely complements this, although they need something heavier keeping them from falling off stage when the choreography gains momentum.

Casually clarifying the conditions to obtain a Visa to stay on the island strongly reminds of the well-known phrase “Arbeit macht frei”. The only difference between the two is perhaps the colourful feathery Brazilian Carnival-like costume worn by the officer and the surprising swap of gender characteristics in the norms of the island’s society. As part of this surrealism males on the island should watch what they wear in case they provoke the uncontrollable hormone-led female desire, be mindful of how the behave and how they fulfil their household duties of cleaning, cooking and taking care of the kids in addition to their full-time job. The officer helpers constantly nodding in affirmation further contributes to the entertainment brought by the piece alongside the scary thought of how brainwashing works in favour of those in charge.

Finishing on an open note as the curtain falls down and the audience is reminded of the insignificance power has at the face of death might feel a little too gloomy and abrupt. Yet, precisely because of the truth in the officer’s words does it also send an incredibly grounding and peaceful message to the audience.

Runs until: 27 July 2019 | Image: Leandro Facundo

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colourful surrealism

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