Mother Nature wreaked havoc in 2017 leaving 4000 dead when Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico. Hurricane Diaries, is a solo show performed and written by Amanda Vilanova, who brings accounts of her home country to life with political and historical accounts of this Caribbean island, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.
The hurricane has left its detritus, the stage a humble assemblage of life packed into cardboard boxes is eerily accompanied by a perpetual orchestra of dripping water hitting tin pots, reminding us hurricanes are not one-off events for Puerto Rico, hence the vitality of this show.
Kicking off with a lesson in all things Puerto Rican, we soon discover our lack of knowledge about this island, and Vilanova’s intention to put it firmly on the map is noted: Spanish colonisation, beautiful women, historical punitive measures resulting in the suffering of its people are covered -the author makes it real.
Fittingly, Amanda takes command, herself a literal cyclone. At moments energised, striding up and down, she shares impassioned memories of life as a Puerto Rican woman, at others silently allowing us to digest the magnitude of events. Audiences will be both mesmerised by her energy and unsettled. The British may wonder what part they play in this scenario.
Enter Jane Austen, British etiquette and ideas of an idyllic life, all very attractive to a woman experiencing such upheaval – the dream, though, is dispelled and so too are any notions of perfect family life on her island as Vilanova exposes the abuse women experience in Puerto Rico at the hands of men; candidly stating, ‘If we’re so pretty, why do you hit us?’ Homeland pride never deters from frank accounts of sexism encountered and survival strategies employed. So rigorous and energised is her delivery you may feel you’re in a storm with her, and in need of cover.
There’s plenty to admire about a solo voice giving their all and so unapologetically stating the case for those whose lives are upturned, so as Vilanova states, ‘I pay my taxes’, the audience hears her loud and clear.
A dynamic insight – one to see.
Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT 10th, 12th, 17th & 19th October. 8pm with 4.30pm matinee on 18th. Admission: £10, £8. Phone: 020 7701 0100. www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk
Photo: Chris Mann