A bleeding wound on the head of a captive man remained a stark symbol throughout Southwick Players’ production of Ariel Dorfman’s drama Death and the Maiden.
It was fitting that the gash, expertly created by make-up artist Chris Horlock, had been caused by an act not seen by the Barn Theatre audience.
The blow had apparently been dealt by victim-turned-oppressor Paulina, movingly portrayed by Victoria Thomson.
Paulina’s former torture and rape had been behind closed doors and she sought retribution in similar fashion.
Although set in the aftermath of General Pinochet’s turbulent presidency of Chile, the play’s themes resonate throughout time, as pointed out by the director, Richard Lindfield.
Chris Parke gave a strong, haunted performance as doctor Roberto, gagged and bound by Paulina, who demanded at gunpoint his repentance as her former torturer.
The two actors effectively sustained tension, ably abetted by Jeremy Crow as Paulina’s humane lawyer husband Gerardo.
One particularly tense scene saw Gerardo’s apparent compassion turn to rage when Roberto implied that the husband was the ‘soft cop’ of the couple’s interrogating partnership.
Many other aspects made this production memorable, including the disquieting intimacy and symbolically muted colours of the set, the use of on-stage tape recorders to ‘play back’ witness testimonies, and Samantha Brennan’s live singing of pivotal pieces from Schubert’s Death and the Maiden.
Music’s double-edged sword, as both healer and trigger of traumatic memories, was skilfully wielded by the Southwick Players.