Review: The Condor and the Maiden, King’s Head

“Everyone knows the land belong to him, but I do all the work”

The Condor and the Maiden is a new play by Dermot Murphy which is playing in the afternoons at the King’s Head Theatre at 1pm. Produced by Tricolore, a company dedicated to the promotion of international culture, literature and language, it is a short quirky piece which proved to be a pleasant way to spend an hour in Islington.

Set in a village in Southern Bolivia, Lucía is living below the poverty line with her daughter Clarisa and struggling daily to make ends meet. When duty to her absent husband’s family and a land dispute threatens to leave them homeless and indeed their very existence, she is forced to dig deep in order to defend her and her daughter’s futures.

I quite enjoyed it: being so short, it wasn’t particularly complex, but it didn’t need to be. It gently pottered along, with a couple of contrived moments, but the lightness of touch made it easy to forgive them. Its themes of the power of story-telling and female cultural emancipation were nicely captured without being too patronising and sometimes it’s just nice to see the strength of human spirit win through.

As Clarisa (a name which sounds so much nicer with a Latin inflection), Jennifer Jackson captures the ease and innocence of a young girl extremely well, and as the truth of what has happened to her is teased out through story-telling, it provides a genuinely harrowing moment. Nadia Ostacchini also impressed as the proud mother Lucia, desperate to keep her child happy and untroubled whilst struggling to secure her future, and I also particularly liked Lindsey Readman’s sympathetic community worker, desperate to keep this woman and child afloat, with a beautifully warm performance. The male characters were less strongly drawn, and I would have perhaps liked more menace from Phil Gerrard’s Pedro who was too often drunk to be genuinely threatening.

As we entered the theatre, some Latin American musicians were playing live which was a nice treat and seeing panpipes being played up close made me realise how much skill is needed to do it well, it would have been nice (although probably impractical) to have them play the incidental music throughout. Instead, the music was dangerously close to both annoying mood music and those darned Peruvians that haunt city centre squares with their performances.

But still, this was a charming way to spend an hour, with some engaging, if not earth-shattering drama and a set of appealing performances.

Running time: 50 minutes
Programme cost: free

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