Red Sky (FringeTIX)
Paulo Castro @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)
9:45pm, Fri 23 Mar 2007
As the house lights drop, the stage is illuminated by the soft grey glow of a TV’s static. Paulo Castro, a diminutive bearded chap, sneaks onstage and moves to the TV. There’s a darkened fumbling as he struggles to get a VCR working to start the show. At the time, it feels like a massively fucked-up opening; in retrospect, it feels utterly appropriate.
The video displays iconic scenes from the death of communism; Castro watches them intently for several minutes before switching the TV off in disgust. As the lights come up, we see him clad in a dressing gown; moments later, we ascertain that he’s playing a woman. Bugger it, here’s the Guide’s description of the show:
Denying the collapse of GDR-Berlin, a communist mother telephones her son to convince him to return home to the Soviatic lifestyle. Her attack against communism and the West is imminent. The mother is Paulo Castro. With a ten day growth, he presents this tragedy in slippers and a dressing gown.
The set is sparse, as one would imagine it to be. Castro is constantly ringing his/her son, initially offering sweetness, before exploding with rage, yelling down the phone to him. Likewise with the police, as he/she tries to cajole a return to socialism from within his/her own apartment. There’s elements of desperate self-mutilation – burning his/herself with matches, attacking his/her groin with a hot lightbulb – until, in desperation – Castro poisons him/herself, collapsing on the floor; the stage lights drop, but music plays on. It’s a weird and uncomfortable ending, sitting in the dark with a folksy east-european tune playing gently in the foreground; Castro snaps the light on to formalise the end of the show, and we’re done.
There was a lot of giggles throughout this performance from the half-full audience, but I’ve no idea why. I saw few elements of humour, and a whole shitload of sadness. It felt terribly, terribly bleak, an old woman unable to cope with the changing world and the fact that her son was never returning home. Maybe I completely missed the point; but the pervading sadness of the piece coupled with the visual disparity in characterisation (not to mention the somewhat unbelievable dialogue) wouldn’t lead me to recommend Red Sky.
(And now that this entry has been written, hopefully I can get The Fixx‘s song Red Skies out of my head. It’s been plaguing me for days.)