Beasts (Las Brutas)

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Juan Radrigán’s ‘Beasts’ (‘Las Brutas’) begins at the end with a screen projection that reads: ‘Chile, 1974. In the extreme isolation of the Andean foothills, three sisters are found hanged from a rock.’ The play is based on a real discovery that was never explained, although Pinochet’s regime and UFOs were suggested as possible fatal factors at the time.

All the ingredients are here for claustrophobic tragedy but the final twist in the rope comes as a surprise. Director Sue Dunderdale locates the action exclusively indoors and the harsh elements, which surely played a pivotal role in eroding the sisters’ spirits, remain frustratingly remote.

Carolyn Pickles is impressively resolute as older sister Justa, in charge of both her siblings and the cattle. She seems all but merged with the mountainside, her voice sunken like the earth and her body permanently on its haunches. But Justa’s hatred for the city feels over-defined, in stark contrast with her sisters’ cautious optimism. Catherine Boyle’s translation only sharpens the edges of these sculpted characters and is weighed down by increasingly cloying proverbs.

The play works best in the sisters’ dazed descriptions of the city and the strange inventions it holds. They talk breathlessly of boxes that speak, taps that run hot and glass that helps folks ‘see big’. The two youngest claw keenly at cashmere cardigans, desperate to attain these modern garments, which hang awkwardly on their hefty frames.

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