If you’re not knowledgeable about contemporary Spanish drama, you’re certainly not alone. In a characteristically adventurous piece of programming, the Cock Tavern presents the UK premiere of the young Catalan playwright Pau Miro, who’s a big shout in his homeland and now breaking out to a wider audience.
There’s a sensuality to Miro’s imagery mixed with a sense of the valuelessness of modern existence. High culture nestles alongside the detritus of contemporary life in It’s Raining in Barcelona, neatly captured in the central image of fragments of poetry posted on sweet wrappers.
Lali is a small-time prostitute, living with her pimp boyfriend, and yearning for more from life, although at this stage she can’t distinguish between Dante and Rimbaud and has a penchant for buying cheap while selling cheap. There’s a pervasive presence of nasty deodorant and MacDonalds debris.
If the play veers towards tart-with-a-heart sentimentality, it resembles more and more the kitschy edginess of an Almodovar film. Director Tanja Pagnuco, who I’m told is on a mission to unearth hidden European treasures, paces the production nicely and guides her cast to truthful and endearing performances.
Rebecca Herod is excellent as the skittish Lali, lithe and vulnerable, and Lewis Hayes is very believable as her indolent partner, gorging on fast food, with occasional bursts of repressed aggression turning inwards. Matteau Varda seems on the young side as the businessman client who likes to watch and feed Lali on snippets of high culture.
An uneasy truce reigns finally, in a situation that despite its unsavouriness looks as though it might just work (a bit like life really).
A returning seagull seems to serve a function familiar to anyone who’s seen Chekov but the symbolism is never overt and a nice ambiguity runs through the piece.
- Simon Thomas