'Beasts (Las Brutas)' review or 'Cashmere doesn't work in the country.'

Beasts’ (Las Brutas), Juan Radrigán. Translated by Catherine Boyle
Theatre 503, Saturday 3rd September 2011
Written for Time Out

Carolyn Pickles, Claire Cogan, Anne Marie Cavanah

Juan Radrigán's 'Beasts (Las Brutas)' begins at the end with a screen projection that reads: ' Chile, 1974. In the extreme isolation of the Andean foothills, three sisters are found hanged from a rock.' The play is based on a real-life tragedy that was never explained, although Pinochet's regime and UFOs were posed as possible fatal factors at the time.

All the ingredients are here for a claustrophobic tragedy but the final suicide comes as a surprise; a noose lopped last minute around the neck rather than a gradual and painful tightening. Director Sue Dunderdale locates the action exclusively indoors and the harsh elements, which surely played a pivotal role in eroding the sisters' spirits, remain frustratingly remote.

Carolyn Pickles is impressively resolute as older sister Justa, in charge of both her sisters and the cattle. She seems all but merged with the mountainside, her voice sunken like the earth and her body permanently on its haunches. But Justa's hatred for the city feels over-defined, in stark contrast with her sisters' cautious optimism. Catherine Boyle's translation only sharpens the edges of these sculpted characters and is weighed down by increasingly cloying proverbs.

Justa braids the rope. But it aint hairstyles she's thinking of.

Where the play works best is in the sisters' dazed descriptions of the city and the strange inventions it holds. They talk breathlessly of boxes that speak, taps that run hot and glass that helps folks 'see big'. The two youngest claw keenly at cashmere cardigans, desperate to attain these modern garments, which hang all too awkwardly on their hefty frames. 

Clawing at Cardigans.


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