Theatre Review: ‘El Blanco’ is theatre at its simplest
To tell the truth, the play El Blanco is a heap of nonsense. There’s a plot, of sorts, some singing, of more uncertain sorts, a very large hat and very tight trousers, and square-mouthed James Cairns spinning a yarn of his crazy days in Mexico. And bravo, amigo, because it’s one hell of a funny show. By LESLEY STONES.
El Blanco, Tales Of The Mariachi is a fabulous piece of storytelling where everything is slightly madcap and one thread leads to another in great convoluted loops and imaginative twists.
It’s written by local playwright Gwydion Beynon, who just may have imbibed one or two tequilas too many when this daft idea sprung into his head. Cairns is exactly the right person to bring it to life, with brilliant comedic timing and a face that bears both comic and tragic expressions simultaneously.
“There will be stories, there will be songs, and there will be many, many lies,” he tells us.
The sombrero-toting El Blanco tells us of his childhood marred by being a pale-skinned misfit, growing up and starting work, and the influence of his grandfather, a Mariachi, a strolling folk musician-cum-storyteller. His dreams take over from reality as he imagines himself a huge songwriting success lauded by George Clooney, who he mimics with a fairly convincing drawl.
Then we’re in Egypt and I can’t remember why, but we’re all still laughing heartily as Cairns weaves his spellbinding stories, plays some evocative Spanish guitar and strikes a few ridiculous poses. There’s an atmospheric use of lighting and minimal props, with all the magic emanating from the ludicrously funny tale and Cairn’s fabulous way with words. He’s endearing and charming and delivers gems like “My life isn’t a song, it’s a jingle,” with such comic pathos that you laugh at the same time as his bottom lip quivers.
El Blanco, Tales of the Mariachi won a Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival and a bursary to play at the UK’s Brighton Fringe Festival. It’s theatre at it simplest – storytelling that could still be told in the pueblos of Mexico where tumbleweed blows and the sad strum of a guitar drifts in the hot breeze. DM
El Blanco runs at Sandton’s Theatre on the Square until April 8. Tickets on 011 883 8606 or www.computicket.com
Photo: James Cairns plays El Blanco in the play of the same name on at Sandton's Theatre on the Square until April 8. Photo: Philip Kuhn