Zygo Theatre, The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana

Review in Issue 13-4 | Winter 2001

In darkness no one can see you sweat; but with the senses left to you – touch, smell and hearing – you could be in an American freak-show at the turn of the century. The whole play is in the pitch dark, but it is the sense of movement that survives, your ears pricking up to hear each different spatial position. This is very physical theatre. And the plot moves on through the discovery and selling into a circus of the ugliest woman that ever lived, one more grotesque amongst grotesques – but one whose scent is pure rosewater (or was it orange?) wafted onto the audience. The central irony is apparent – that the playwright, unable to countenance exposing the ugliest woman to prurient gaze by way of make-up and artifice, chooses to show us her inner life and outer story, clear, sad and bright.

It was a terrific experience, that kept the audience bonded in darkness with the cast. There is pace; there is movement and plot; and the language is atmospheric without being wordy. There was an overlay of comment and sound from the cast when the unscrupulous show-owner seduces his beautiful ‘money provider’, mixed for me with the sigh of someone in the third row and the gulp of water from a cup of another, as the play and the darkness forced you to take in the totality of your surroundings.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-4
p. 25