4 stars ****
THINK OF live theatre, and the key element that comes to mind is the sense of a living interaction with performers who are breathing the same air, and almost close enough to touch.
So what are we to make of the Chilean director Juan Carlos Zagal, and his remarkable company Teatro Cinema, who seem – at least superficially – to create live theatre that is as much as possible like cinematic film noir? With a hand-drawn aesthetic that involves graphic and abstract images as well as film, they project the background to the story onto two wide cinema-sized screens, one behind the other; while the five actors appear in the shadowy two-metre space between screens, fitting their performances to the stream of images, naturalistic or dream-like, that move around them.
It’s a strange, dusky form of theatre, in other words; it involves peering into the dark, for 90 minutes, at dimly-lit faces and figures veiled from us by the screen, and further distanced by the use of half-masks and wigs to alter the actors’ appearance.
The point about Sin Sangre, though, is that it has a formidable story to tell. Based on a short novel by Alessandro Baricco, it involves a tale of hatred, revenge and continuing war that carries huge resonances for recent Chilean history, and that gradually emerges from Zagal’s strange symphony of images with a memorable force and lyricism. The experience is far more filmic than it is theatrical. Yet the presence of the live actors, trapped between screens, gives it an edge, an oddness, a poignancy, that almost seems like a metaphor for the situation it describes. And if Zagal’s technique is too elaborate and strange to point a major way forward for 21st century theatre, in Sin Sangre it nonetheless delivers a unique work of art; painting rich pictures of a pain that seems endless, until a moment of pure human redemption suddenly emerges from the darkness of the city, surprising, beautiful, and true.
Until 3 September
EIF p. 30