I show my ticket to the lady at the door and she points to the fourth row just in front of the stage. Premium seats! I grin, step down and find my seat. I sit and wait; i have no idea what to expect. Admittedly, from the title and promotional poster it is not something i would have gone to see but this was a free ticket and a new experience so why not?
The lights dim, the doors close and the music starts. The first thing that hits me is the colour and detail of the costumes. The next thing that hits me is the language. Aside from names that i couldn't pronounce, spell or remember if i tried, its normal everyday English. Its very easy to understand, not elaborate and even has a few swear words thrown in. And its funny! It is not a comedy but the writing and execution is clever and provides some genuine laugh out loud moments and cheeky chuckles. I relax and the next few hours fly by as the play unfolds. Sure, I'm not always able to follow who's who due to the names and some actors playing dual roles but when i walk out at the end i feel two things: One, I'm disappointed that not all the seats were filled for such a play, on a Saturday night too. And two, I'm glad that not all the seats were filled because when i go back to see it again, i know I'll get a good seat ;)
The new Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) production has murder, warring houses, betrayal, poison, revenge, people going crazy, ghosts, sacrifice, deception and humor. But. It is not written by Shakespeare.
When i first stumbled across the social media call on the RSC's website, the play they were promoting was not something i was really interested in. In fact, why was the RSC showing something that wasn't Shakespeare? It just looked like it was a boring war story with weird tattoos. But i had never done a social media call before so i thought why not? I tossed my name into the RSC's proverbial hat and was lucky enough to be selected by the organisers. So allow me now a moment to take my foot out of my mouth and say I'm glad i was selected otherwise i would have missed out on a great play.
A Soldier in Every Son - The Rise of the Aztecs is part of the RSC's Nations at War trilogy commissioned for the World Shakespeare Festival. The play is a co-production with the National Theatre of Mexico (Compagna Nacional de Teatro de Mexico) from which 6 actors the set designer, costume designer and composer are working with the RSC on this production. Originally written by Luis Mario Moncada in Spanish as a 3 part play, it has been condensed into one play and translated into English. Put simply, it is about warring tribes during the 15th century before the Aztecs came to power.
The play starts with 2 main tribes - Acolhuas (Blue costumes) and Tepanecas (Gold/Brown costumes) - setting up a marriage to unite them. The Tepaneca princess Tepca (Susie Trayling) and the Acolhuas prince Ixtlixochitl (Alex Waldmann) however cant play nice and the arrangement is broken. Ixtlixochitl then ends up marrying into the Aztec tribe (Red/Black costumes) who at that point are mercenaries for the Tepanecas. After poison, madness, a brother killing a brother and war and you find the puppet master Itzcoatl (Brian Ferguson) manipulating his way to the top of the Aztec clan killing Maxtla (Mark Holgate) who is now head of the Tepanecas and setting up an alliance with with Ixtlixochitl's son who was thought dead thereby beginning the 100 year reign of the Aztecs.
Yesterday was the actual social media call. I joined the 10 or 12 bloggers/facebookers/twitter-ers who showed up to watch a scene from the play followed by a Q&A session with 3 actors (Susie Trayling, Alex Waldmann and Diego Jáuregui) and the Assistant Director (Luke Kernaghan).
I wont repeat each question and its answer because this would turn into a very long post (although if you are interested, email me). But i will say a few things that i found interesting especially after coming home and reading some reviews written by mainstream media, most of which have a gripe with the names of people/places/relationships or the depth of the play. Regarding the names, Alex Waldmann put it best when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that Shakespeare is as complicated as a Soldier in Every Son but people already know or are familiar with the names in Shakespeare's plays whereas most people come to this play cold.
As for the depth, the thing you need to understand about this play is that it is new and based on a history of which a lot is unknown. Luke Kernaghan said that it was hard to research a period for which no history exists. That period is about survival. Daily life is a risk, you cant relax. Its not very British and its one of those things the company had to come to terms with. The actors also have had a challenge in finding a voice for these characters as well as creating a world that is different from the contemporary world. They created movements, stances and used the costumes to help generate an "other-worldly" feel.
This play is new but it definitely has parallels and shadows of Shakespeare. It is entertaining, absorbing and fresh. Make up your own mind, go see it and let me know what you think - but better be quick, once the play wraps up here, it moves to Mexico along with with whole cast, costumes and set.
By the way, ignore the "trailer" on the RSC website (sorry RSC!), it doesn't tell you anything. Have a look at this clip though. Its the scene where Ixtlixochitl (Alex Waldmann) and Tecpa (Susie Trayling) spend some time together...arguing. Background information for this scene is that Zilamiauh (sounds like Zila-Miow) is Ixtlixochitl's slave who he has just spent time rolling around with in a previous scene causing him to be delayed from courting Tecpa.
I do hope you get the chance to see this wonderful new play.
Note: I was not paid to write this post. The RSC only provided me with the opportunity to see the full play (free of charge) and attend the social media call. My opinions as expressed in this post are entirely my own.
Links to others who attended the social media call: