Shaken drags you through the spectacle of a post-earthquake Puebla. We are met with the most phenomenal set – even more so with a camera which drops you directly into the action. Mariana Lafón lies centre-stage; entangled in cords in a chalky and rubble-strewn space. This opening scene is incredibly eerie: we see them scramble through the ruins whilst sobbing, with dust coating their entire body. Between sobs comes a song, reverberating dully from the chunks of brick. This production is disorientating and episodic so as soon as you are accustomed to one scene the the production shapeshifts into an entirely alternate entity.
Shaken is speckled with dark, skillful humour which smacks you back and forth with each blow. It’s ever so difficult to concentrate when a googly-eyed sock puppet spouts political discourse on how the state of the insecure infrastructure infers corruption. This alienation, with the performer staring right into the camera lens, and your eyes, is disorienting. You work to process the national emergency as a bumbling rescue operator jostles about with armfuls of shovels shouting, ‘ARE YOU READY?’ I think, ‘ready to dig out bodies?!’
The episodic structure does come with its own downsides. It feels disjointed and lacking in a specific genre. One moment we’re on the ceiling, watching a sobbing woman curl into a circle of flickering candles as she cradles a screaming baby. The next, a sock puppet is revealing the corruption which exacerbated the death toll of a natural disaster. The alienation reinforces the political message – but it doesn’t always create for smooth transitions and through lines in the production.
Lafón morphs from character to character, always vibrating with immense energy. Each one bleeds honesty. She performs as a woman who is pouring cups of water as she explains that after losing her entire family providing for others is the only way to maintain her life’s purpose. We are thrown a bleak reminder of the sense of community which comes with social trauma.
Lafón reminds us that disasters like the 2017 Puebla Earthquake do not need to result in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries to be hugely significant. When disaster strikes, the worries and livelihoods of the elite will always come before the impacted, the injured, or the killed. Lafón twirls in a gorgeous folklórico dress on a concrete dance floor where the rubble has been swept away. This piece is enriched with political drive. I sense we can expect far more exciting pieces of work with Lafón in the world.
Shaken is playing online until the 29th November. For more information and tickets, see The Actor’s Centre Website.