Loco Maricon Amor
Review by Zenobia Frost
A made-up-true-story: Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca are caught in interweaving and surreal passions with art, with death, with the muse, and with each other. Loco Maricon Amor is the first incarnation of this experimental work by The Danger Ensemble (The Hamlet Apocalypse) — experimental in the sense that the director, Stephen Mitchell Wright, is most interested in the experience the work evokes. “React,” he compels us.
The cast (all co-devisors) use bricolage and pastiche to make the ordinary strange. The Danger Ensemble (with the actors stating, plainly, that they are actors) remixes the words of Dalí and the poems of Lorca to create a surreal impression of men who’ve been absorbed into their own legends.
When I was very young, my parents took me to Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol. I don’t remember much of the many galleries we visited in my childhood, but Dalí’s home resonates in my skull like Wonka’s chocolate factory. Even so, I had a lot to learn about surrealism at last year’s GoMA exhibition, where I struggled to access the child-mind that had so readily accessed Dalí’s dreams in Spain. I reflected, in Rave Magazine last year, on the desire to let myself be moved, disturbed, amused, aroused, disgusted — whatever — by surrealist art. As adults, we spend a lot of time muzzling our gut reactions; for me, theatre is one way of unlocking this self-enforced self-restraint.
Loco is not, strictly speaking, a pleasant theatre experience (for this reviewer, at least). However, it is by turns moving, disturbing, amusing, arousing and disgusting. (And I’m the first to admit how often I bemoan the ubiquity of niceness on stage and screen.)
The first thing we notice, entering the Sue Benner on opening night, is the smell of new paint. The audience may feel detached from the brightly lit, sterile white set. With the cast posing in all-black and magnificently absurd hats, I’m reminded of glossy, high fashion shoots and the black-and-white photographs of Man Ray. But the design (by Wright and Alexandra Kennedy) succeeds in creating a series of surreal, visually resonant tableaux with splashes of vibrant or violent colour.
Sex, Love and Death are personified as a chorus of three women who are by turns relatable and eerily discomforting. Lucy-Ann Langkilde, as Death, is just as compelling standing still in the shadows as taking centre stage, beating her breast. In company with The Moon, Love and Death guide the audience through a work that Wright describes as a reaction against realism. Despite the intended eroticism bubbling under every tableau and looped dialogue, Sex finds herself without much to do. Given the show’s manifesto, it seems that this character is underutilised rather than repressed. Still, musical harmonies, woven out of familiar pop songs by the chorus, were my way into Loco — and my favourite element of the production.
Loco Maricon Amor evokes figures as varied as Warhol, Venus, Wilde and Foucault. The production is self-conscious as it explores passion through the lens of artifice, but it wouldn’t do the Ensemble justice to write Loco off as all surface. There is a chaotic palette of themes at play underneath the umbrella and lampshade hats. In its first incarnation, Loco might not have worked out exactly how to extend a hand to the audience — but the play on the whole is a worthy experiment in anti-narrative.
To engage with Loco Maricon Amor’s strange visions of familiar desires, you’ll need to get your hands dirty — with paint that might not easily wash off. And you might decide you like the stains.
ZENOBIA FROST (@zenfrost) was, until recently, the arts editor of Rave Magazine. She is a founding member of OffStreet Press and is fond of strange myths, incisive verse, theatre, graveyards, tea, and editing.