Mendoza, Southwark Playhouse

The name Mendoza invokes memories of McBain’s nemesis from The Simpsons and it could have descended into similar hysterics and gore.

Mendoza takes the most Scottish of plays to 19th century, which seems a risky and bizarre move but Los Colochos fast-paced and gory production makes Shakespeare accessible and brings passion to a play that I had never considered passionate before. I found Macbeth to be weak and Lady Macbeth to be simply desperate to control the situation. In this I found the love and passion behind their decisions. 

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Jose Mendoza meets a witch, played by Monica Del Carmen and a hen. No fake hen an actual live hen who gives the impression she has been acting for years and she promises him a life he never thought possible; promotion to General. When it happens it triggers a descent into madness and murder that Mendoza is not strong enough to cope with. I love the dual casting of Del Carmen as the witch and Rosario (Lady) Mendoza; ruthless and ambitious you wonder how she ended up with a man like Mendoza, who we only see at his weakest. It is a great ensemble piece, and unfortunately I have been unable to find the names of all the cast, it really engages with its audiences. Mendoza confides her fears to audience members, they are made to join a feast the Mendoza’s are hosting and sit amongst the audience as if they are one of us. It is immersive without the intimidation.

Whilst the Spanish language with English surtitles may put some off there is no need to see it as a barrier to great theatre. It is full of energy, the scenes of murder are disturbing and it is hard not to make comparisons with the problems Mexico still faces; 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping for example is a mostly unsolved case that shows power and corruption still reign in the region. 

Mendoza in Production

 

This is also a tale about passion, loyalty, the power of superstition/gods (with Mendoza choosing between the witch and his own Catholicism) and masculinity. Rosario Mendoza takes on this masculine role of perpetrator and protector when she realised her husband, who she wants the best for, is not up to giving her the life she desperately needs. It isn’t afraid to show strong women, even Theresa (Espranza’s wife) seems more annoyed at her husband’s sudden departure than weakened by it and her vicious murder at the hands of Mendoza shows us how far this strong man has come; from killing armies to killing women and children in their homes.

There is a lot of warmth, with Mexican folk songs and a lovely ending where every audience member is given a bottle of Corona but even if they hadn’t given us all beer there was clearly a lot of love for this powerful and deeply moving production. As Macbeth makes a return to National Theatre next year Mendoza has made me look at the story in a different way.

This is the final show in the Casa Festival, which ends on 28 October, for more information about 2018 and festival director Daniel Goldman’s other shows go to their website http://casafestival.org.uk/ 

 

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