Review by Carmel Shortall
Griselda Gambaro is considered one of the most important Argentine and Latin American playwrights but her work is rarely performed in Britain. This situation is currently being remedied, however, as her play Siamese Twins, first performed in 1967, is receiving its UK premiere this September at the Theatro Technis in Camden. Silver Lining Theatre Company and Artes Escénicas Rayuela are presenting a joint production of the play from 6th to 25th of the month.
Gambaro’s themes of violence, passivity and the dynamics of power are no less relevant today than they were in 1967. Oppressors need the oppressed – those who are habituated to passivity – and the silent who are made complicit because of their silence.
The wide stage area at the Technis is strewn with paper and bales of newspapers. Lorenzo enters panting through double doors, having been running. He’s laughing: “I got away.” When his brother Ignacio arrives and knocks to be let in, Lorenzo won’t open the door and tells the audience, “He’s screwed.” There is more pleading followed by sounds of violence. Lorenzo has let Ignacio take the blame for throwing a stone he, himself, threw. Later, when the leering Smiley Man and incoherent Nasal Man turn up to question them about the incident, Lorenzo once again stitches Ignacio up, planting ‘evidence’.
Lorenzo and Ignacio are twins but they are not literally the ‘Siamese twins’ of the play’s title. Rather, they are figurative ‘Siamese twins’ – one is strong and one is weak playing out Gambaro’s dynamic of the power relationship to its bitter and inevitable end. Lorenzo refers to this metaphorical relationship when he says the “operation was a failure”. For one to be left in perfect condition, the other has to be ruined.
As Lorenzo frames, betrays and torments his brother, Ignacio comes crawling back (sometimes quite literally) for more. His anger is futile and Lorenzo’s attempts to make up to him are meaningless and insincere.
Gambaro has created a grotesque world where the guilty are made guilty by the mere fact of their having been punished – rightly or wrongly. Lorenzo, the true perpetrator, says, “Innocent people don’t get the shit kicked out of them.”
Gwen MacKeith’s new translation of Gambaro’s play is vibrant and authoritative. Mara Lockowandt and Jorge Perez Falconi direct with assurance and are ably assisted by Set Designer, Sylwia Dobkowska and Lighting Designer, Karen Quigley. A harsh dystopian world is created onstage and the slow motion sequences of Ignacio being beaten by the sinister Smiley Man and Nasal Man are particularly impressive.
This is a rare chance to see an important play and I can’t recommend this production enough. Go and see it. It is playing at the Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, Mornington Crescent till the 25th September, Tuesdays to Sundays at 7:30pm, with a matinee on Saturdays at 2:30pm. Tickets are reasonably priced at £12 with concessions at £10.