Theatre503, London – until 16 February 2019
Victor Sanchez Rodriguez’s Cuzco makes its English debut with translation by William Gregory. It is a passionate play about a couple She (Dilek Rose) and He (Gareth Kieran Jones) who find themselves on a belated gap year to Peru where they battle their approaches to Spanish and European Colonialism and their own relationship.
The play isn’t lost in translation with many themes such as cultural tourism and escaping from one’s self/life on holiday ringing true for English audiences. She is on the surface a dominant presence but from day one of their trip they find themselves at a distance. He befriends a couple, she locks down in her hotel room (her comment about all hotel rooms looking the same, with slight differences is a godsend for Stephanie Williams’ design as we follow them across different locations). The curtain-like set is put to good use in the final scene, it is very hard for a play not to feel voyeuristic.
I wanted to know about She and He’s lives in Spain, it is alluded to that she doesn’t have a job. Is it economical or out of choice? They seem very different people and it takes being out of their comfort zone to realise that. Whatever chemistry they had clings on by a thread and it is often an uncomfortable watch to see a realistic portrayal of a relationship falling apart as one makes an effort to save it.
I really enjoyed both performances by Rose and Jones, they have great chemistry and Rose tackles a complex woman who knows what she doesn’t want but not much more than that, whereas Jones initially seeming submissive to her demands reveals a resentment that has built up over time but has been ignored out of his love for her and the woman she used to be.
The production, directed by Kate O’Connor, aesthetically feels Spanish, taking inspiration from Pedro Almodóvar films. It is rare to see such complex two-handers about relationships presented with such clarity. I would be intrigued to see the production in its native language with surtitles.