Review: Camino Real

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FLO CARR is unimpressed and confused by her trip to The Mumford

12th-13th January, 8.00, The Mumford Theatre


Camino Real is the first Anglia Ruskin production I have been to and also my first reviewing job, so I cycled past Kelsey Kerridge and into Ruskin territory with a Google map in my hand and excitement in my heart, but my first assignment didn’t live up to the hype.  This lesser known Tennessee Williams play is set in the claustrophobic plaza of a tiny Spanish speaking town, surrounded by desert and apparently inhabited by a bunch of total lunatics. The play opened on Broadway in 1953 and was a complete flop and, to be honest, I have no idea why they chose to revive it.

The Mumford Theatre, at the back of the Anglia Ruskin campus, is a very good space. The large stage, complete with exciting looking set and steeply tiered seating possibly gives it the edge over our beloved ADC, so I settled down in my seat with high hopes for the production.

I was disappointed almost as soon as it began when a pair of travellers inexplicably dressed in some dirty pillows came on, hobbling dramatically down the stairs. Normally I am all for an inventive use of the space, but this just seemed a bit too much like pantomime now that we are into January.

The huge cast featured some very interesting characters, with varyingly intelligible Spanish accents. The highlight was the policeman played by a very short girl in massive army trousers and clown make-up who shouted a lot and beat up various characters with an unconvincing truncheon for no clear reason.

I never knew where on the cluttered stage to look or what to listen to or who the important characters were, but just sat there in shock watching this array of strange people mincing about the stage and worried for a moment that not understanding what the hell was going on would hinder my ability to write a review.

In a different play, some of the actors might have shone. Mrs Gutman, the hotel manager, had a lovely clear voice and good stage presence. The part of the ex-boxer Kilroy was played with a nice energy, a convincing American accent and brought some normality into this surreal production. The sinister street cleaner who cleared up the corpses was frightening in her silence and best of all were the gypsy woman and her daughter – the only engaging part of the “plot”.

The make-up and costume were striking. The blind traveller woman, despite her irritating relentless warbling, looked amazing with huge blue eyes painted onto her eye-lids. Oversized white grins, ginger wigs, smudged red lips and crimped hair meant at least there was something to look at during the more indecipherable moments.

However make-up can’t carry a show and despite some good performances, I was relieved when, with very little warning from the plot or characters, the lights went down after an hour signalling the end of the madness. This first venture into the world of Anglia Ruskin theatre did not uncover a hidden gem, but since none you were ever going to go and see it anyway, it doesn’t really matter. You haven’t missed out. Maybe next time.

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  • Dan Rayner

    ha! this really does mate me laugh. Those who don't and never really have studied theatre do not really understand what is performance? It does seem those 'new reviewers' think they need to criticise and call it a 'bad performance' in order to be a great reviewer. All those who saw this performance would agree there may be MINOR criticisms but overall the show deserves ALOT more credit than this amateur critique is prepared to acknowledge

  • Rupert Goodwin

    What a silly little review. You can tell its your first time reviewing Theatre darling. `I was hoping to find some information about the play but instead was greeted by your patronizing account of how you 'ventured into Ruskin territory' like you were entering a leopar colony. Not exactly the next Lynn Gardiner sweety.

    I've seen lots of good things at The Mumford but everything I've seen at the ADC has been embarrassingly bad. Oh well, keep trying, practice makes perfect as they say.

  • Jackson Fraiser

    Perhaps you have never read a Tennessee Williams play before, but if you had taken the time to research for a couple of minutes you would have realised that you don't need to find a solid story within most of his work. The play is clearly a dream, and within it varying characters portraying a decaying township where nobody can truly leave. Perhaps next time send a reviewer who has a brain.

  • Chris

    A strange review. Possibly only focusing on the performance in a two-dimensional point of view. Shame, when good drama has many more layers, which this review has obviously missed. I am pretty sure that their is some grammatical errors as well, showing a further lack of professionalism.

  • kolcs

    just one thing love, despite its initial flop, the play later got a lot of recognition (even if it isn't Tennessee's most well known one), and actually starred at one point actors such as Al Pacino and Eli Wallach.

    Also if you'd know who some of the characters are you might understand why they act the way they do, for example why Don Quixote (the random traveller you mentioned starting the play) wears pillows as an armor and why he acts so overtly dramatically.

    also, you would know that Casanova is italian, and the Lady of The Camilles from Victor Hugo's novel is french, so the accents are not all spanish

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