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The Last Days of Gilda

Rodrigo de Roure
Arcola
(2009)

Production photo

It's not the easiest task on a cold January night in Dalston but somehow, Gaël Le Cornec transports us to a hot, Brazilian favela for an hour. There, the Brazilian-French actress becomes Gilda, a colourful young woman searching for love and identity.

The Last Days of Gilda is a solo show that combines storytelling, gossip and existential angst with a hint of Magic Realism (or possibly just fantasy). Most of all though, the play tells the story of a slum-dweller who would like to be a film star but is trapped in a claustrophobic village. Life there is hard for Gilda as she is undervalued by everyone except her pigs and chickens.

Rodrigo de Roure and his director Victor Esses build up the atmosphere well. Gilda is proudly cleaning her shanty-hut as her audience arrives, always ready with a sexy wiggle to emphasise her under-clothed curves.

As she talks about the meagre income that her chickens bring in, we begin to hear of the men who admire the slim, vain, frizzy-haired beauty. Each is imperfect, married, lonely, brainless and often all three. Judging by the jealousy of the local women, their men folk are also fond of funding her lifestyle, in return for largely unmentioned favours.

While she relates the tale, Gilda goes about her domestic business using some clever physical theatre techniques and two versatile rags, one white, one red, that are miraculously transformed into a wide variety of different cooking ingredients.

An hour is too long for this woman to keep up her semblance of happy contentedness and almost suicidal depression begins to leak into her life, which is quite disturbing in such a small space.

This production under the banner of Casa, the Latin American flagship in London, draws in its audience, thanks to the care that has gone into its creation and the novelty of a look at a life rarely investigated in North London.

This is a short run but anyone with an evening free later in the week would do well to travel to the Arcola and thence, to the shabby exotic reality of Gilda's favela.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher