Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

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Ruth Butler as Paulina and Nick Marston as Gerado

 Death and the Maiden

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


ARIEL Dorfmans play of remembered violence and revenge never fails to stir an audience whatever the setting.

Paulina Salas is the once tortured and abused woman at the hands of a South American dictatorial regime.

Set some years later, she is now married to a lawyer Gerardo Escobar who is on the verge of bringing that regime to justice. However, one night a series of coincidences leads her to come face to face with a man, Dr Roberto Miranda, whom she believes is her prime tormentor. 

She embarks upon a course of revenge that will change all of their lives and one that leaves the audience with a series of questions about morality and forgiveness.  

It’s a play that calls for some serious commitment in attitude from the performers as there is a fair amount of strong language, aggressive physical action and extremes from cosy chats to violent exchanges.

With that in mind, Ruth Butler plays Paulina and it took her a while to enter into her character. Ruth seems like a very nice lady and so the profanity she was called to deliver at times didn’t quite sound right coming from her.

That fact is to her personal credit but as Paulina is a woman who has been systematically tortured and raped, the depth of her hatred for Dr Miranda was not immediately felt. As the play went on she seemed more comfortable in the role, if that is a virtue, and overall did a great job playing sucmaiden midh a broken character.

Nick Marston was Gerardo Paulina’s husband. Gerardo is eventually called upon to be the go between his wife and Dr Miranda and his act of pacifying her while coaxing Miranda into a confession of his crimes needed some finesse. Nick managed to get the balance just right from the almost condescending exchanges with his wife’s obsession to then his own violent reaction when he thinks Miranda is guilty of the crimes.

Ruth Butler and Chris Isaac as Dr Roberto Miranda

Dr Roberto Miranda was played by Chris Isaac who also did a fine job managing the polarity of his character. Being placed in some difficult physical situations throughout the play of being tied and gagged cannot be easy as there is no way to fake it and his struggle as the Escobar’s prisoner was convincing. There is part where we hear his confession and the extent of his torturous acts yet it is a point whereby the audience are often turned on hearing his regret. Chris handled this well and overall this transition was nicely staged.

Director Marc Dugmore could not have asked more from actors as in any sense of the word, it’s a play that contains some powerful actions and requires performers to enter into some challenging emotional territory. Each of the characters are wildly different and just the delivery of Dorfmans words often go a long way into shocking the audience into attention.

From an amateur performance perspective, it takes some courage to take on such a complex play and STAC must be commended for delivering that. Death and the Maiden remains though something of a mountain for actors to climb and although it took a little time here, by the end the trio had just about reached the summit. To 18-06-16

Jeff Grant


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