Thursday, 9 August 2018

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: Stardust at Pleasance Dome (10Dome)


Colombian artist Miguel Hernando Torres Umba is building a cultural bridge between Latin America and the United Kingdom and has started his mission by addressing his country's greatest stigma: the production and export of cocaine. Weary of the joking comments he receives about his nationality and the endless checks he's submitted to, every time he goes through an airport, he analyses the subject-matter with verve, offering 60-minutes of pure exhilaration and piercing truths. 

His solo performance is deeply rooted in the responsibilities that western countries hold towards Colombia. From the Hollywood and Netflix glamorisation of narco-trafficking to the soaring demand generated by those supposedly-conscious consumers who turn vegan, reduce plastic, use hybrid cars and snort cocaine as regular features in their trendy lifestyle. 

Reeling off facts and figures, Miguel starts his partially-autobiographical journey at the origins of the coca plant and its spiritual role in the Inca civilisation. Accompanied by mesmerising traditional music and visually stunning hand-drawn projections, he slides behind the background gauze, shining as a physical performer, as much as a storyteller and entertainer. 

A jackpot-style TV show reveals the eye-watering profits coming from coca plantations, as well as the irreversible damage caused to the land and the local communities. Called to chose between "plata o plomo" (literally silver or lead), an audience member decides whether money or bullets are the best solution to the obstacles that might obstruct the production and distribution chain.

Meanwhile, like an impending menace, a generous line of coke sits on a flat
mirror by the stage, tempting the artist to conform to the masses and try, at least once, the pristine dust that causes the violent death of over 28,000 Colombians every year. A brief demonstration of the physical and psychological effects on the user must be enough to put us all off. 

Torres Umba's sparkling delivery mitigates the heavy emotional impact of this new piece written by Daniel Dingsdale. However, it is Stardust'seducational relevance that should attract a numerous audience.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: unreserved | Price of ticket: £10.50
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