City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Flor de Muerto Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 20 August 2010

Flor de Muerto
Show details
Bedlam Theatre
Gomito Productions/The Junction/Escalator East to Edinburgh
Running time: 
Amelia Bird (director), John Dumont (writer (devised by the cast)), Sam Worboys (producer), Philippa Herrick (composer), Zoe Squire (designer).
Javan Hughes (Gabriel), Amie Burns-Walker (The girl), Isabella Marshall (The aunt), Sam Worboys.

A marigold, “flower of the dead”, grows from a pot only to be picked and put into a girl’s hair. Birth, life and death, just like that, in an instant. But it’s 2nd November, Mexican Day of the Dead and while loved ones may be dead they are not forgotten.

It’s a day that is not mournful, but full of happy and colourful celebration as people go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed. Today however not everyone is happy. 

Gabriel is a somewhat taciturn youth who lives with his aunt and hates the day and everything it symbolises. It brings back memories of his parents and there is nothing happy there for him – where there was something, now there is nothing.

He would prefer to read his comic books and stay locked in his carefully crafted Fortress of Solitude. Somewhere the dead won’t find him and he can be stronger than he really is. A superhero in fact – El Santo, a sort of hybrid Mexican wrestler and Pedro Parker, bitten by a radioactive mosquito which has afforded him super human powers. As he imagines his exploits we see him in shadow-puppet form, back lit on a red sheet complete with the “crash” and “pow!” type word balloons from his graphic novels.

Hiding however is not so easy as seemingly routine tasks of hanging out washing or going shopping for his aunt seems to bring him closer to the dead. Even when the new girl-next-door comes looking to borrow a cup of sugar it’s so she can make confectionary skulls as offerings. 

Into the bargain the marigold petals that she trails in her wake attract the souls of the dead. Gabriel sets off for Grandpa Death’s Little Shop of Death, which mysteriously only seems to be open this one day of the year, but soon becomes intertwined with the festival as he meets various towns people in a whirl of music and dance.

With a little help from his potential love interest, his deceased parents and his El Santo alter ego perhaps he may be able to accept that the dead can’t be forgotten and enjoy the fiesta.

This is a bright and vibrant production and the attractive, layered clothesline set allows the cast to use lighting, puppetry, music and movement to good effect to tell the story. 

The puppets, whilst simple, are handled with the company’s usual deft touch. Overall however the production lacks pace, grace and clarity. While it’s true to the day’s celebratory nature it doesn’t adequately deal with either pain and loss or transcendence and transformation.

9-28 (not 15 or 22) August, 5.30pm.

£8 (£6)