October 12, 1994

Adelaide Theatre – Warsaw Tango

Warsaw Tango
Written, Designed and Directed by Alberto Felix Alberto.
Teatro Del Sur, in association with State Theatre.
Technical Director: Ignacio Riveros.
With: Maria Alejandra Figueroa, Marta Riveros,
Eduardo Cappussi, Luis Tenewicki.
The Space, Adelaide Festival Centre.

Murray Bramwell

Argentinian company, Teatro Del Sur, touring for the first time to Australia, have opened their much-travelled piece, Warsaw Tango, in Adelaide. Pre-season detail about the work has been scarce. Even the program notes are opaque. Warsaw Tango is “meant to be an open work, any attempt to summarise the plot would be an intrusion upon the audience’s realm.”

At the risk of intruding on your realm, some outline. Amanda (Maria Alejandra Figueroa), a drab young woman, is ironing and listening to tango music on the radio. Across from her, in contrast to the white backdrops that surround her are the decorative facades of a cafe. In front of this some highly stylised lovers are triangulating. In a moment of fevered impulse the Magnific (Eduardo Cappussi) takes out a pistol and murders the Diva (Marta Riveros) while the Pole (Luis Tenewicki), horrified, looks on. There is a sudden round of applause and the players take a bow. Attention shifts back to Amanda who is engulfed by the plangent tones of Forties tango torch singer Azucena Maizani.

From there, the stock characters of the carelessly laughing Diva, the machismo Magnific and the besotted Pole interweave in a succession of intrigues. In the rapid montage of a silent melodrama scenes flicker from Amanda’s dismal domestic world to the cafe world of Diva and the Magnif. Everything has the logic of dream- or nightmare. Is Amanda actually raped by the Pole ? And, cued by the Wedding March, are we to think she has, dear reader, married him ? Well anyway, not for long. The Pole decides it takes three to tango as he quicksteps not just with the Diva but also the Magnific.

With these same-sex themes, writer and director Albert Felix Alberto deconstructs the romantic machismo of his play-within-the-play and there are further twists when, like the imaginings of Brecht’s Pirate Jenny, Amanda takes swift revenge.

Warsaw Tango unfolds meticulously, almost frame by frame. The repetitions of music and lighting, the minimal spoken text, the admirably disciplined performances, all have an hypnotic effect. But finally, it is not compelling theatrically nor illuminating in its politics. The production is perhaps like the tango itself- much more style than substance.

The Australian, Arts on Friday, October 12, 1994.

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