Monday, April 5, 2010

Two Big Shows in Bogota

March 29--The world theatre festival in Bogota continues and today I will talk about two very big shows—one held in a sports stadium and another in a public park. As I have been zipping around the city all this week in yellow mini-Hyundai taxis, it has been exciting to see how everyone in the city is participating in the festival. Everywhere there are full houses. Though nothing ever starts on time, audiences like to clap and cheer before the show to let the cast know they are ready and pumped for what’s to come. In the case of The Aluminum Show from Dollbeat Productions in Israel, the 4,000 or so people packing the stadium were treated to a 75 minute exploration of anything and everything that can be done with aluminum piping and sheeting. Eight Vegas-style beautiful young things dance with the giant pipes, puppeteer them, and send them out like enormous snakes over the crowd all to an ear-splitting beat and rock concert lighting effects. There is no attempt at any story. You’ve heard of art for art’s sake. Well, this is special effects for special effects sake.

In stark and stunning contrast to Dollbeat’s nonsense is Teatro Biuro Podrozy’s outdoor adaptation of MacBeth from Poland. A wood and steel structure is set up in a foot-ball field-sized dirt clearing in Parque Simon Bolivar. Hundreds of Colombians submit to the frisking required to enter the park for security reasons and stand or sit before the stage. Macbeth and his followers enter on motor cycles, dressed in fascist type military gear. Shakespeare’s power-mad murderer is pursued by terrifying 15-foot witches on stilts. Fire-works go off into the night sky as Macbeth is crowned. Ultimately, he throws himself into the flames of his own castle as more actors on stilts advance with telephone pole trees—the ominous Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane—as young Fleance, Banquo’s son and the next anointed king, looks on from his little tricycle wearing a crisp white shirt. The contemporary imagery in this powerful production speaks clearly to the Bogota audience about the price men pay for greed and violence. In a country where cocaine cartels still rule large parts of the country, this updated production of MacBeth is an up-to-the minute and all-too-relevant morality tale.

--Janet Stanford


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