33 (The Salberg Studio, Salisbury Playhouse)

This verbatim play about the 33 Chilean Miners trapped underground in a horrific mining accident presents an interesting overview of events without exploring anything in detail

Before the show begins, the cast mingle with the audience, asking what they remember about the Chilean mining accident. They then remind us how the truth can change as it passes along like Chinese Whispers.

Here, this verbatim play about the 33 Chilean Miners uses physical acting, cameras, projections and music (with an appearance from Elvis Presley) to tell their story as near to the truth as possible.

The story alternates between the trapped miners and the rescuers, as the world watches on. The first part passes quickly, as the starving miners lie down waiting for rescue. Above ground, the situation gradually turns desperate as the days go tick by.

It is once communication is established with the miners that the play slows and addresses some aspects of their story. A psychologist is introduced and we see tension grow between her and the miners as she controls their food and privileges. All for what she believes is their own good, as she asks them to discuss their feelings on a scale of 1 to 10.

The play also addresses how the accident was seen by the rest of the world. The pronouncements on the progress of the rescue become more exaggerated each passing day. The cast also play the press delivering each breaking news story with such excitement. Like Chinese whispers, the story gets changed to the point where it’s far from the truth.

There are some interesting ideas in this play. That said, because the play tries to tell the story from many points of view, it succeeds only in giving a one hour overview of the events and explores nothing in detail.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting overview, and the efforts of the cast make it a production worth seeing.

– David Jobson