My admiration for the Battersea Arts Centre grows every time I get a chance to visit it. Not only, this beautiful building has survived a disastrous fire in 2015, but it has also risen from its ashes even stronger and keeps offering a wide programme of initiatives that promotes the local community and its diversity. Bringing up the most urgent matters of our times, BAC uses various art forms to explore topics like migration and international politics, sending out a clear message of inclusion and social justice.
Within this vision, the ongoing Cash, Capitalism and Corporations season hosts, until the 4th March, Bucket List, a powerful insight on the political relationships between US and Mexico. Written and directed by Nir Paldi, Bucket List highlights how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) worsened the Mexicans' quality of life, as experienced directly by Milagros (Tamsin Clarke), a young girl born on the very day the treaty was signed.
Since the institution of NAFTA between US, Canada and Mexico, the latter has seen soaring levels of pollution contaminate the rivers and poison the population, whilst the corrupted political class turned a blind eye and violently repressed every protest. Amongst the victims of this repression are Milagros' mother Maria (Deborah Pugh) and auntie Teresa (Charlotte Dubery), whose unjust death pushes the little girl to seek a bloodstained revenge. Performed by an all-female ensemble, this 90-minute piece investigates the extreme extents of fighting injustice and shows how an advocate of freedom can become someone else's terrorist.
A solid cast deliver a well-polished and accurately choreographed performance. Despite every actress covering multiple roles and many elaborate transitions on stage, action and narration are perfectly synced and flow at an engaging pace. The compelling neo-colonialist theme is charged with the right dose of disturbing details and naive irony, creating a play that keeps its entertaining value whilst presenting real and alarming facts. A special mention goes to Luisa Guerreiro, who's extraordinary in the roles of auntie Magda and Vasilij.
Despite their simplicity, the costumes have an evocative touch that suggests, both, the pastel-tinted clothes of the little girls and the blue work trousers of the women employed in the factories. Haruna Komatsu, at the percussions, and Shamira Turner, at the voice and guitar, contribute with a live musical accompaniment, which is sometimes heart-warming and some other times heart-breaking.
Praise to Theatre Ad Infinitum for presenting such an actual and thought-provoking piece of theatre, which might not appeal to all audiences but is equally enjoyable and educative. As for the Battersea Arts Centre, I wish the developers of Hornsey Town Hall – on the opposite side of town – could follow its example and regale the community of Crouch End with a beautiful and permanent arts space, rather than seeking to transform it into a boutique hotel!
Review by Marianna Meloni