The Mac, Belfast
It is with a growing sense of trepidation that first steps are taken along a dusty corridor leading into the heart of darkness that is Tejas Verdes. Tejas Verdes – Green Gables – a pretty name for a notorious detention centre, where, to the tune of millions of dollars of western aid, countless political prisoners were held, tortured and disappeared by the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.
Férmin Cabal's multi-layered play, lyrically translated by Robert Shaw, bites deep at personal and political levels. Sophie Motley's beautifully rounded production is tightly controlled and devoid of any whiff of hysteria, but nobody witnessing this final episode in Prime Cut and the Mac's Chilean Trilogy will be able to banish thoughts of the North's own disappeared and the political mire in which their cause remains engulfed.
Designer Ciaran Bagnall has transformed the performance space into a disorientating physical experience, brilliantly capturing Cabal's frequent references to those who hear without listening, who refuse to register the cries of anguish echoing within these walls. Footsteps crunch on grainy asphalt strewn throughout a cavernous black hole, pierced only by single beams of light. In grim overhead cells, narrow passages, overcrowded graveyards and bleak interrogation rooms, the stories unfold and interlock, while, in the world outside, the bells of St Stephen's ring out a message of hope, which a young girl has heard all her life, but not listened to – until now.
She is Colorina, the daughter of an affluent family, whose only sin is to have fallen in love with a left-wing militant sought by the regime. Amy Molloy sweetly captures the innocence of a hapless victim, way out of her depth in a tangle of systemic corruption and cruelty. Her situation forms the pivotal point of the play, into which the other monologues feed and fit. Pauline Hutton brings a chilly charm to the testimony of a military doctor complicit in Colorina's fate. Eleanor Methven is at once humorous and pitiable in recounting the grisly tasks of the gravedigger, while Bernadette Brown's Informer is played with a numb knowingness, nicely counterpointing her earlier emotional turn as Colorina's friend.
The trilogy has been an uplifting and inspiring event, bringing responsibility for complex and pressing issues in the wider world right here to our own doorstep.
Runs until 14 June. The three plays will be performed back to back on June 7 and 14.themaclive.com