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Review: REWIND (New Diorama Theatre)

Review by Harry Bower

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

As my friend and I emerged from the New Diorama Theatre on a chilly February evening, our tears were beginning to dry on our faces and we both blew out our cheeks. Composing ourselves, we marched toward Euston, barely pausing for breath in a frantic and excited conversation about what we had just witnessed. REWIND is like nothing either of us had ever seen on-stage. It is a masterpiece of compassionate storytelling, packed with sensitivity and empathy.

 

Ephemeral Ensemble’s piece opens with an informal welcome by one of the performers, Andres Valesquez, setting out the context for the following hour of movement, puppetry and music. In 1986 the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team was created, borne of a desire by human rights groups to locate and identify Argentines who had been forcibly disappeared during the military dictatorship of the late 70s. REWIND hangs its narrative on the discovery, exhumation and reclamation of the remains of a young protestor named Alicia. Valesquez’s soft, warm tone of voice and deliberate choice of words in the introduction makes a complicated origin story accessible to those with no knowledge of the subject matter.

 


Alicia’s story is told from two perspectives; the forensic team who unearthed her story, and the family members impacted by her murder, including her slow-marching mother, a member of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The team of four performers each play multiple roles, skillfully transitioning between scientists, protestors, and mothers, each character as believable as the last. Puppetry of the highest quality immerses the audience in the reanimation of Alicia’s skeleton, discovering her own fate and walking side by side with the forensic team as they discover more about her life. A hat and a shirt are transformed in an ingenious way, into a protest leader giving a rallying cry to those gathered before him. Flashbacks to Alicia’s childhood and bonding with her mother are cleverly depicted by use of a pause and rewind television remote. This is a story of movement, told through movement. Everything is considered. Everything is deliberate. Everything is outstanding.

 

Josephine Tremmeling’s lighting design is as striking as it is emotive, the use of an overhead projector with oils and props a highlight, and the designer herself stars in the show as one of the four cast members. Festooned lights around the edge of the space combine with warm tones to immerse the audience and create an authentic atmosphere. With so few words in the piece, music and voice has even greater impact. Alex Paton is on-stage throughout crafting a loop-pedal-driven live score, pulsating, and driving the pace of the drama. The score makes use of regionally accurate instruments and sounds which add to its authenticity; use of flutes, pipes and trumpets are highly evocative and emotionally manipulative.

 


REWIND is fundamentally about the right to protest but encompasses so many more themes than that in its perfectly formed hour. The cycle of grief, learning from the past, honouring those who gave up everything in pursuit of freedom; it all sounds a bit grand and perhaps preachy, in principle. It is anything but; a captivating and creatively inspirational piece of movement art which is beautiful, educational, and painful, in equal measure. Its cast hasmastered the craft of empathy and are each exquisite in their execution, creating personalities of depth and meaningful relationships from very little, using their voices and bodies to bring light to a murky story. Eyglo Belafonte wears the grief of Alicia’s mother on her face and in every body movement, heartbreakingly convincing. Louise Wilcox is breathlessly youthful and optimistic as a protestor and delicately inquisitive in her role as forensic scientist. Andres Valesquez risks stealing the show as a drowned-out earnest scientist trying to put their discoveries into words on the stand.

 

It feels impossible to draw meaningful parallels in the UK with South America as two often extreme ends of the spectrum. But as I boarded that train home from Euston, I couldn’t help but reflect on our own political landscape. Valesquez says as much in his introduction – we are in a period of dangerous political discourse, part of which is restriction on forms of protest. REWIND is a timely reminder of the importance of everything we hold dear in a democracy. As a piece of political art it is outstanding.

 

REWIND plays at New Diorama Theatre until Saturday 10th February 2024. 


For more information and tickets visit https://newdiorama.com/whats-on/rewind

 

Photos by Matthew Hodgkin (first image) and Maria Falconer (second image)

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