El pasado es un animal grotesco – Review

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PuSh_logo_El_Pasado_2-kihadaAs I run down the long, windowed corridor that stretches between me and the imminently-departing seabus, a busker at the far end plucks a Spanish number from the strings of his guitar, and it seems to me like an echo of the play I just attended. El pasado es un animal grotesco, written in Spanish and performed with English subtitles, struck many chords of its own in a soundtrack of lifelong yearning. The play depicts the lives of youths pulled through tension, passion, self-doubt, and rare moments of clarity. Time is marked by the slowly rotating stage across which the paths of four Argentinians are strewn.


Photo courtesy of blogteatro

The show began a little late due to some unforeseen technical difficulties. The crowd outside murmured in anticipation as we were directed through the doors and onto risers set before a quartered circular platform. Set against the bare, untreated wooden walls, the props were few and simple – yet they proved immensely effective in the hands of the actors. Two screens were suspended on either side of the stage to display the English subtitles. These could perhaps have been brighter or defined with higher contrast; there were a few audience members who expressed difficulty in reading them. The lights built above the stage were dramatic but unobtrusive effects – very well done. Movement backstage was unnoticeable; scene transitions were relatively seamless.

The story itself involved the four actors alternating between narrator and their respective characters, which meant some clever slides of hand in exchanging microphones. Sometimes the tone would change dramatically between scenes – from soft and sympathetic to forceful and fast – with only a moment and a few steps in between. At one point, a character (Pablo) narrated his own story in first person while still placed within the scene. His ability to do so while an opposite character prattled on with such vivacity, sitting between him and the audience, was most impressive! I was similarly affected by the spectrum of emotion and expression worn by the actors in close succession. The effect placed authentic emphasis on the short jumps in time and the way they catch us off guard. In one particularly memorable scene, one character (Hasan) seemed to look right at me as he performed a comedic imitation of Julia Roberts in the famous Erin Brockovich love scene, in sync with a TV playing the actual film.

Photo courtesy of

Waves of tension crested in passion left moments of peace in relief as the show carried on. The four actors unwound stories of such raw poignancy, bringing life to words like “There’s a special charm to sad endings”. In each of their tales, we can find parts of our own. Who can’t relate to Pablo when he says, “The body is a prison – I’m going to organize and escape”? We slowly realize, as the play carries on, that it is not amid but between the moments of success that the four characters experience moments of genuine happiness – that it’s not the destination but the journey that shapes us. By the end, the actors through whom the four journeyers have been animated look exhausted but pleased. The play claiming that “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” leaves us confident, nevertheless, in courage like that of “fishermen that go fishing in the disgusting, rotten waters but put on a bright face”.

El pasado es un animal grotesco runs until February 4th, bringing the PuSh Festival to an end, but with any luck it will return again next year with many other spectacular events you won’t want to miss. It’s festivals like this one that remind me how lucky we are at Kihada to be surrounded by so much kreativity.We’d like to pass on that reminder, along with our gratitude to everyone who has made PuSh possible through both monetary and participatory contributions. We invite you to become a donor too, by following this link and giving our arts community a PuSh – because kreativity is the key.



El pasado es un animal grotesco

Mariano Pensotti (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Presented by the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and SFU Woodward’s

February 2-4, 2012, 8:00pm
The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street.
Post-Show Talkback Feb 3, led by Kenji Maeda

Tickets Advance $32 /$28 /$26; at door $34 /$30 /$28
Tickets Tonight | 604.684.2787 Additional service charges apply to phone orders
Eligible for PuSh Pass access

Text & Direction Mariano Pensotti
Performers Pilar Gamboa, Javier Lorenzo, Santiago Gobernori, María Inés Sancerni
Set & Costume Design Mariana Tirantte
Assistant Director Leandro Orellano
Tour Manager Juan Pablo Gomez
Lighting Design Matías Sendón
Music Diego Vainer
Co-Producers Grupo Marea, Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Festival de Otoño de Madrid, Theaterformen


Running Time 110min


Warning: Strobe lights and herbal cigarettes are used in this production.


This North American tour is made possible with the support of National Performance Network in collaboration with Performing Americas, and includes stops at P.S. 122/ Under The Radar (New York), Wexner Centre for the Arts (Columbus), Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis), On the Boards (Seattle), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco) and REDCAT (Los Angeles).

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