Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Death Song

You Need Me
The Corn Exchange, Newbury, and touring
(2011)

Death Song production photo

Multinational storytelling ensemble You Need Me is a resident theatre company at the Corn Exchange Newbury. The cast Puerto Rican, Basque, Catalan and English.

Their latest thought-provoking performance, Death Song, had considerable success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the summer.

Death Song is a tense electric story of a Mexican immigrant facing execution on death row in Nevada in the early 1980s.

Seven years before Juan (Heriberto Montalban) and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Paulina (Miren Alcala) are living alone on a trailer park south of Las Vegas. She has been told to keep a low profile and not to stray from the enclosed area.

The action switches between the present and the past, between the scorching heat of the trailer park and the repressive confines of the death row prison cell.

Juan is an illegal immigrant but works hard trying to build up a life for them both. He cleans casinos at night and washes cars by day. But beneath this quiet existence is a bubbling explosive claustrophobic relationship that will lead to tragedy.

Fran Moulds plays Juan's new American girlfriend, all emotional and fiery.

The Corn Exchange's stage was transformed into a studio theatre and the action was also performed on the stage with the cast clambering over the audience and acting in the aisles creating an intimate and intense atmosphere.

The acting is superb throughout with sterling performances from Rosamond Martin as the English schoolteacher who communicates with Juan in prison and Roger Ribo who impressively created live sound effects using Foley techniques that added a new dimension to the piece.

The company use inventive physical theatre and their characters are powerfully and skilfully observed.

There is a moral to this story as one of the actors says," Expecting life to treat you well because you are a nice person is like expecting a bull not to maul you because you are a vegetarian. The bull doesn't give a shit."

There is some emotive live cello playing from Greg Hall that counterpoints the action and tension, particularly as the date of the execution grows nearer.

Tautly directed by Emily Watson Howes this was an absolute triumph that completely captivated the small but appreciative audience.

"Death Song" tours to West End Centre Aldershot 26th Oct, Nuffield Theatre Southampton 1-2nd Nov, The Hawth Crawley 3rd Nov and The Maltings Berwick 5th Nov.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp