The Melancholy of the Tourist

Jomi Oligor and Shaday Larios
Oligor y Microscopía
Brighton Dome

The Melancholy of the Tourist Credit: Oligor y Microscopía

Jomi Oligor personally curates the seating of each member of the small audience before introducing his company’s 2019 work The Melancholy of the Tourist, which has its UK première at Brighton Festival.

His kindly, hushed voice in this intimately-proportioned, dimly lit space commands attention, and it is almost as if the audience holds its collective breath as collaborators Oligor and Shaday Larios present a world in miniature.

Against a strongly percussive score that evokes the Havana and Acapulco settings of the work, the pair construct tableaux before our eyes that form a meditation on memory, more precisely what travellers remember from their journeys and what meaning there is to forgotten memories of places that, no longer a go-to destination, decay.

As a work of “teatro de objetos documentales” (theatre of documentary objects), text takes a back seat; where it is used here, it is either projected or spoken by Oligor but in both forms has an unhurried lyricism and tone of nostalgia to it.

Scenes are created before our eyes using vintage, recovered and contemporary materials and purpose-made objects: model cars, old postcards, paper dolls, a tiny camera, a miniature smoking cigar, the ‘lungs’ a small automated bellows on view under the table. A wonky hotel sign points mournfully to prosperous bygone days.

The techniques are many and varied—shadow work, object manipulation, storytelling, a tiny conveyor belt, a revolving stage, projected images, cigar boxes are opened to reveal microcosms of life under the spotlight of a teensy LED bulb—but everything comes together to tell stories of real people and the places they belong and the casual exploitation of both as a form of leisure for tourists.

There is a precision and reverence to Oligor and Larios’s work. It requires the audience’s focus as much as theirs, and we learn as much from the scenes’ assembly as their decomposition.

This is a heartbroken love letter to travel that asks what do tourists really see when they go to new places.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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