THE experiences of many immigrants whose lack of necessary paperwork makes them a target for exploitation is succinctly summed up by Mexican writer/performer Vicky Araico Casas’s exquisitely compact one-woman show.
Juana in a Million
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)
She plays Juana, a young girl growing up in Mexico hoping for a better life in the UK – one where she can open a restaurant and escape the violent extortionists who plague the streets of her country. London seems like a natural choice, and despite warnings from her mother that she’ll end up selling her body, that’s where Juana heads – only to have her dreams and dignity torn to shreds.
Along with director and co-writer Nir Paldi, Araico Casas has developed a joyfully physical kind of storytelling that pairs the vibrant and expressive dance of Mexico’s rich heritage with the mundane, repetitive and demeaning tasks Juana is forced to do in a kitchen in London’s Elephant and Castle under the ever-present threat of sexual abuse.
Washing pots, emptying the bins and cleaning loos become part of a sharply choreographed routine – a celebration of mundane, physical work done well, and the “invisible” people who break their backs doing it so we don’t have to.
The fluidity of the movement allows Araico Casas to morph effortlessly into the variety of characters Juana encounters on her journey: the evil-smelling woman she shares a “hot bedding” arrangement with; the well-spoken restaurant owner who exploits and then fires her; the 60-year-old man who wants to use her for sex. Whether British citizen or immigrant, no-one seems able to resist the allure of self-interest in a city portrayed as starkly devoid of compassion.
Impressively layered live music from Adam Pleeth – a veritable one-man band – creates soundscapes contrasting the cold appeal of London with vivacious yet volatile Mexico.
By the time Juana has lost everything, the tightly crafted story leaves us in no doubt that her tragedy is the result of the limited amount of choices she has been given – ones that many of us are lucky enough never to have to face.
Until 26 August. Today 4:15pm.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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