Calder Bookshop and Theatre, London – until 3 November 2019
Evita tells us that there’s ‘never been a lady loved as much as Eva Perón’ and her totemic status in Argentine life was secured in no small part to her untimely death at just 33. But surely not even she could have predicted, or dared dream of, the place she maintained in the public imagination, a mythology perpetuated by new military leadership that tried to outlaw the Perón name and who disappeared her embalmed corpse.
Eva Halac’s play Irish Coffee, presented here in a translation from the Spanish by Luis Gayol and Daniel Kelly, places itself in the height of that febrile time, as two journalists decide to try and make their name by tracking down Eva’s body. And tapping into that complex history, she uses the real-life figures of Rodolfo Walsh and Tomás Eloy Martínez as her protagonists, emphasising a volatile mixture of fact and fiction and probing at the very notion of truth.
Their investigation focuses on the reclusive Colonel Moori Koenig who, with his wife, has numerous zealously guarded secrets but at a time of considerable political violence, getting close to them is a real challenge. And so having set up these pairings, Halac’s play spends a long time exploring them – the travails of freelance journalistic life and editorial influence, the dangers of being close (or not close enough) to a dictatorship.
After an intriguing beginning, Gayol’s production really sparks into life once the couples are mixed up and the process of sorting fact from fiction kicks into gear once stories start spilling out. In an age of extreme media spin and press scrutiny, it really makes you think about how legacies are created and curated, even at two or three steps removed from reality, entirely dependent on who gets to tell their version of events. A fascinating slice of historical drama.