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‘Demands not only attention but change in attitude’: SHAKEN – The Actors Centre (Online review) ★★★★

This 30-minute piece effectively explores the aftermath of a disaster and whether lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again.

In 1985 Mexico suffered a devastating earthquake that took a long time for the country to recover from – sadly in 2017 it felt the impact of another earthquake. This is the focus of Mariana Lafón’s compact but no less heartbreaking short play which asks if it is possible to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Having originally been part of The Actors Centre’s Latin American season, the drama is impressive in the way in which it captures a range of perspectives to explore the impact of decisions and lack of preparation for tragedy and disaster on those most affected – usually the ordinary people.

Written and performed by Lafón, it is automatically easy to be impressed with the ambition of the show in terms of the set and the way in which it has been filmed. The audience is swept into the aftermath of the earthquake, focusing on a woman who is left praying and utterly alone after the impact of this natural disaster. We are then introduced to Mariana who wants to look back at the 1985 earthquake and discover what lessons could be learned from it.

Through a series of scenes, the audience discovers the individual cost and impact on lives and their thoughts on what happened. It is a real diverse range of stories included in a short space of time and it feels as though it could be expanded on further. Stories such as Dolores losing her children and sister, as well as an elderly gentleman describing a rescue attempt that doesn’t go according to plan make for powerful listening.

The way in which the camera and set is used is impressive, with the close up shots of possessions in the dirt dotted around the set is particularly chilling and makes a strong impact on the audience. It takes us up close and personal to the very heart of the pain and anger that the people feel in the aftermath of events such as this – in particular towards the corruption of the government. This is highlighted in a scene in which the Mexican President makes it clear he was impressed with the government’s handling of the earthquake – but held to account (somewhat bizarrely) by a puppet (perhaps a journalist).

It has to be said that Shaken is at its strongest when it captures how natural disaster impacts everyday lives, the helplessness felt and the hard work done by those attempting to rescue those caught in the middle of it all.

This is a very compassionate as well as passionate piece of writing that demands not only attention but change in attitude – a plea to learn from past mistakes. It is a nicely written and thought out piece of drama that deserves further development.

By Emma Clarendon

Shaken is available to stream via The Actors Centre until the 16th May.


from News, Reviews and Features – My Theatre Mates

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