Review: Camino Real

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

anglia ruskin Camino Real Flo Carr Tennessee Williams Theatre

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.