Have you ever had a blazing row with your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner while on holiday: a trip you’ve shelled out a lot for and on which you’re meant to be having a wonderful time? There’s a very specific feeling that it evokes: a kind of inescapable, apocalyptic doom laced with frantic panic. It’s the absolute worst.
‘Cuzco’ is riddled with that feeling. A two-hander written by Spanish playwright Victor Sánchez Rodríguez and translated by William Gregory, it follows a couple (Spanish too, but they speak in English obvs) on a backpacking trip through Peru, charting the complete disintegration of their relationship on the way, argument by argument, from hostel room to hostel room.
Rodríguez and Gregory have crafted a very authentic-feeling break-up story. He’s up for a laugh. She’s decidedly not. He wants to go out and explore. She can’t be bothered. He fawns after her affection. She would rather be alone. It makes complete sense, and there’s a kind of relish in watching them tetchily quarrel. Their final fight is really quite fun.
Where the play diverts slightly is in the long, heavily symbolic stories that both characters break into, and in the liberal sprinkling of Incan mythology throughout. Rodríguez is apparently trying to draw some vague parallels between Spanish imperialism and modern-day romance, between the lies told to adventure tourists and the lies that uphold relationships. It’s not clear – maybe it loses something in translation – but it makes this more than just a romcom.
Kate O’Connor directs Dilek Rose (reluctant and cynical – she reminded me of my ex’s mum) and Gareth Kieran Jones (angsty and frustrated) fluently on Stephanie Williams’s square set. Over 70 minutes, items of furniture keep being removed and translucent blinds are pulled round, trapping Rose and Jones in their horrendous holiday.
An interesting import – maybe not one to take your significant other to, though.