Saturday, February 09, 2013


Théâtre sans Frontières, with Teatro Tamaska, at the Cramphorn Theatre

Who'd invest £10K in wine they'll never get to taste ? Greedy bankers, for a start, and the choice Malvasia in question gives this intriguing new polyglot play its title.
Shakespeare knew it as Canary, and the wharf where it landed is now thronged by traders in other investment opportunities. One moral of the tale is that they are just as greedy, just as unscrupulous, as the pirates who sailed under the flag of the Virgin Queen.
She puts in a memorable appearance here, as do Mad King George, Thomas Jefferson and Sarah Palin. El Draque, Sir Francis, becomes banker Bob Drake [John Cobb] who sets up the investment with various financiers and fraudsters, but loses everything, seduced by false Madeira and the glamorous Master of Wine [Sophie Millon]. Paddy Burton plays Jason, the smooth-talking expert, and Josefa Suárez is the counterfeiter who ages the bottles, dyes the wine and fakes the provenance. They all play many other roles, as the action switches from London to the US to the Spanish Main.
This unique, enterprising company celebrates diversity of language and culture, and the striking set design has a discreet surtitle screen for the moments when the dialogue strays into Spanish or French.
They're touring the UK till the end of the month, then taking Canary Gold home to Tenerife in April.

and for The Public Reviews:

A multinational audience for this new and original piece, presented in happy collaboration. It started in Hexham, and is on a small-scale UK tour before setting sail for Tenerife, home of Teatro Tamaska and the much-prized Malmsey wine which gives the show its title.

"Who are the real pirates ?" is the tag-line, and much play is made with the immoral connection between Drake's plunderings, the exploitation of the wine-growers, the Madeira forgery scandal and contemporary financial fraudsters, some of whom now inhabit the Thames Wharf where the Canary came ashore.

Carlos Belda's production has a lovely simple set; geometric blocks make stylised sailboats, with an evocative soundscape and back-projection, and a well integrated screen for the surtitles. But the company of four often seem uncomfortable in the space, struggling to time the entrances or apply the brakes. This, and some hesitation with lines and some unnecessary translation, tend to slow an already long piece.

That said, the central theme is fascinating, and we lap up the history lessons and the crudish satire. There are some lovely momentsthe virtuoso wine-tasting and the surreal Puccini for the golden Virgin Queen [both brilliantly done by Sophie Millon]. and the carousel of mis-selling involving money men [and women] across the globe. The tea party, with John Cobb's excellent Sir Humphrey-ish PM, could have been much funnier, with tauter text and timing.

The cast change costume, and language, to bring us a host of colourful characters, most of them rogues. Josefa Suárez is a modest Parisian woman, seeking to set a foot on the property ladder, later the falsificadora behind the fake bottles, and Paddy Burton convinces effortlessly as a smooth-talking "expert".

The writing is a joint effort, involving no fewer than six. There are clever money metaphors, familiar soundbites about bankers, arcane acronyms [SWAG and NINJAs ?] and, in the second half, a telling sequence of confessions from the four characters mixed up in the "investment opportunity" that is Canary Gold. Other dodgy bottles come from the [real-life] hoard of false Madeira, allegedly part of a shipment to one Thomas Jefferson to help him toast the First Independence Day.

A full-bodied little show, with after-notes of Le Grand Magic Circus and Enron, ending with a rousing rendition of Money [That's What I Want]. A tasty blend of English, French and Spanish makes for a satisfying mouth-feel, though it probably needs to mature a little more. I hope it will travel well to Tenerife.

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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