Overseas pieces are not a common sight in UK theatres, but Theatre503 is doing its bit to change that with their latest offering: William Gregory’s translation of the Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez play Cuzco. Following a couple of readings, director Kate O’Connor came onboard and the result is this production – the play’s English language première.
The central couple (simply denoted ‘He’ and ‘She’) is at a crisis point. Hoping to salvage their relationship, they decide to go on a South American holiday, ending up in Inca territory in modern-day Peru. Whilst He is throwing himself into the trip and taking advantage of everything that’s on offer, She’s not having such a good time of it, preferring to spend time alone in their hotel room or wandering around the city streets. Whether its his blossoming friendship with a fellow travelling couple, or her increasing evasiveness about her emotions and her whereabouts – all the signs are pointing towards this holiday breaking them rather than making them. As the play continues, so does their journey, taking them to Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes – but will they be making the trip back to Spain together?
I daresay in the play’s original state the whole thing may have felt a little more relevant; though the relationship breakdown is the focal point of the piece (and that’s something that can be widely connected with) the strands relating to Incan folklore – specifically Patchacuti – feel quite abstract and not quite connected enough to everything else that’s going on. Given that this is will be an unfamiliar subject matter for many, there’s even more need than ever to make things coherent.
Also, it’s quite strange that the two characters spend so much time talking, yet when it comes down to it we don’t really know what’s going on in their minds; it’s clear they’re shut off from each other, but it doesn’t help for them to be shut off from us as well. Dilek Rose and Gareth Jones do their best to inject some emotion into what you’d expect would already be quite an emotional piece – for me, the writing style often hinders any attempt to bring out their humanity and means it’s rather difficult to engage with either character (particularly by the time we reach the slightly bizarre ending).
The scene transitions do take a little while, and could probably be tightened up a bit, but I admire the attempt to do something with them – rather than choosing the easy option of a blackout while the scenery is changed. Moving the bed around the stage so it occupies a slightly different space for each scene is a nice touch: as well as showing that this is a new location, it also suggests the changing state of their relationship as they journey further.
My verdict? This play is something of an acquired taste, and not particularly easy to engage with – an interesting watch.
Cuzco runs at Theatre503 until 16 February 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.