Pizarro – July 2006

Experience: 3/10

By R B Sheridan

Directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Wednesday 12th July 2006

This was a rehearsed reading of a late play by RBS, the only play he wrote after starting his political career. It was based on a German play, and apparently he followed it very closely, whether translating it himself or from a translation, I don’t know.

This reading was put on to tie up with the production of Royal Hunt of the Sun (seen earlier), and a few of the actors came from that production. In fact, the actor playing Pizarro today was the understudy we had seen before, which made it all the more interesting. It was hard to hear all of the actors, as some of them didn’t seem to realise they had to project as much as if it were a regular performance, and in the vastness of the Olivier a lot of the dialogue was lost. We weren’t as close to the action as in, say, the Swan, so that added to the problem.

The dialogue was interesting. RBS is a wordy chap, and although this isn’t a comedy, the same style showed through, and the speeches sometimes seemed overlong. I suspect the rehearsal period wasn’t very long either, as the minimal amount of action didn’t always add to the experience. However, it was still good to see this play, even with these difficulties, as we’re unlikely to see a full performance.

This play seems to be less about Pizarro than his ex-lieutenant who’s gone native, literally. He’s become the native population’s military commander in their resistance to the Spanish conquest, and the play focuses on his rivalry with another native warrior who thinks he should get the job instead. People get captured, released, captured, etc., and there’s a lot of talk about the politics and inhumanity of the situation, with some effort to include the personal feelings as well. Pizarro’s wife, Elvira, also features strongly. She was keen to marry Pizarro at first because she thought his escapades so glorious, but as she saw what was really happening, she came to despise him and his work. Interesting ideas, and I would still  like to see a proper version some time, if we ever get the chance.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me