Our Private Life

Pedro Miguel Rozo, translated by Simon Scardifield
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

Our Private Life production photo

The standard British view of Colombia imagines a country that does nothing but export drugs and breed murderous gangsters plus the odd footballer. If Pedro Miguel Rozo's Our Private Life is to be believed, in its villages at least, life is not nearly that savoury.

The focal point is a family madhouse, and that word is not overly strong. In a nutshell, Dad is seriously depressed having been accused of paedophilia, Mum was a pregnant teen bride who now suffers from cancer and instability, wealthy elder son Sergio thinks that he is normal but has a violent streak, while his gay sibling Carlos is a self-confessed bi-polar compulsive fantasist. This is hardly a Latino version of The Archers.

The catalyst for the drama is Clare Cathcart as Tanya. She is a Jehovah's Witness ex-prostitute turned labourer who, after being sacked by Anthony O'Donnell's Don Jose, gets her own back by accusing him of raping her twelve-year-old son, Joaquin.

This stirs up a hornet's nest of emotions, exacerbated by the highly mercenary psychiatrist, who will feed anyone's fantasies for the price of a course of therapy.

The self-hatred spreads like wildfire. Colin Morgan plays sensitive, gay Carlos. He is desperate to prove that the seat of all his later troubles was abuse by Don Jose. Businessman brother Sergio, a particularly passionate Eugene O'Hare, sees a chance to get revenge on the man who is not his biological father.

By this stage, the whole town has its knives (well, machetes) out for the poor old patriarch. From there, Pedro Miguel Rozo turns what had been an unnecessarily over-the-top romp into something a great deal more sensitive, as unfulfilled love is allowed to rear its ugly head, before a sad dénouement.

With its manic early scenes, amusingly coloured by verbalised interior monologues, Our Private Life spends far too long sacrificing plot development to coarse comedy and it comes as no surprise to learn that the writer works not only for the stage but also that Latin American speciality, the telenovela.

It is only in the last scenes of Lindsey Turner's staging that something more thoughtful emerges at the end of 80 minutes the vast majority of which have a tendency to feel like something straight out of that soapy genre.

Playing until 12 March

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

Are you sure?