Theatre Review – Pedro and The Captain (The Vaults)


Pedro and The Captain
The Vaults, Waterloo
Written by Mario Benedetti
Directed by Miguel Hernando Torres Umba

Reviewer: Megan Mattravers

A production of advocation, profound thought and discussion of justice, Pedro and The Captain is not a show for the faint-hearted. Blackboard Theatre, in partnership with Redress, present a profound dissection of the relationship between victim and torturer. A night of disturbing scenes, content and brutal action, Pedro and The Captain captivates ‘what it means to be human’ and the abandonment of human rights during states of oppression and dehumanisation. 

Blackboard Theatre in this translation, bring Mario Benedetti’s show to the London stage for the first time in 30 years. The show directed by Miguel H. Torres Umba, is a duologue of action, held in The Crescent Studio, underground at the infamous Vaults venue. Constructed as an interrogation room, the set is disturbing and is extended by the cold, dark, bleak essence of the underground theatre. The space, offers a debilitating nature, often so loud, bright and intense, reflecting an industrial, brutal theatre experience. The show begins with an introduction to the wife of our protagonist, Pedro, discussing how he is missing, how he was taken away and how she longs to see her husband again. This sets up the narrative for the production, entering into the military establishment, confined to an interrogation room. A line “ripped you out of all that comfort” perfectly defines what this show does to its audience through the process of observation, coinciding with the action onstage. 

Pedro and The Captain, within the intimate confines of an interrogation room, presents two human beings, pushed to their limits, as the eponymous Pedro fights to retain his humanity in the face of an oppressive regime. Blackboard Theatre, challenge, interrogate and dissect how often torturer and victim can share similarities. The piece is constructed of four parts each concluding with a loud noise, that seemingly scared me every time. This structured action is effective in demonstrating the journey of Pedro, highlighting the linear timeline of action and time passing, presented in the degrading state of our protagonist. As the production develops we see, Pedro as a broken man, frequently stating “I am dead”, offering a timely reflection of the brutality of torture. Moreover, we see the psychological effect justified by the desire for information, inside knowledge and leading suspicion or revelation. 

Throughout the performance there are several moments of silence, which aid the action and development of the piece. The construct of silence is interesting to question, often appearing frustrated. Exercised by Pedro, silence provides a moment to contemplate the abandonment and oppression of human rights, with silence overcoming the violence and violation. Silence, appears powerful, contemplative and offers scope for interaction and internal characterisation. However, it is important to note the inclusion of sound effects within the production, including water, bangs, music and electricity SFX, also add to the merciless tone. Sound, a fundamental construct within this piece, allows the audience to be immersed in the action, debilitating our senses to the catatonic noise played out. 

This performance juxtaposed by the societal ideology explored is gut wrenching, leaving the theatre feeling truly disturbed by what I had observed. However, there are some moments within the piece that appear unrealistic, in stage combat, character interaction and expression of particular dialogue. Often, there is an awareness of the parameters of performance, not pushing the boundary. This can be seen in the moment of violence on stage, where a stage combat punch is thrown inaccurately, instantly breaking the realm of brutality. However, by the physicality of Pedro, played by Joseph Wilkins, the violence can be identified, pain seeping into a vibration of the body. Moreover, the stage makeup is effective when demonstrating the succession and development of violence, the condition of body state. David Acton, The Captain, is infuriating, his demeanour fitting to the ruthlessness desired on stage. This piece in its attempt to explore the relationship between victim and torturer is brutal, but effective whilst often sickening.

Pedro and The Captain is a production that will challenge and interrogate you as an audience member. I leave the production disturbed by the brutality, but moreover sickened by the reality that experiences detailed in the performance actually take place and exist. Shocked at the effectiveness of the content performed, I will be following the 3 simple actions provided by Blackboard Theatre and Redress in order to #savepedro. 3/5

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