by Laura Kressly
Guido Garcia Lueches is an actor from Uruguay who lives and works in the UK, which means that xenophobia and racism shape his day-to-day life. When he’s not attending auditions where he is asked to embody Latinx stereotypes, he regularly endures microaggressions from British people. This constant stereotyping is so unrelenting that he’s made a satirical, interactive show about the importance of fitting in as a migrant.
Over the course of an hour, the audience are placed in contrasting positions of power within British society. First, we are the casting directors who audition him of unnamed roles along the lines of, ‘sexy pool boy’, ‘drug cartel member’ and ‘tango dancer’. Always eager to please in order to land the job, Garcia Lueches dresses the part to simultaneously hilarious and embarrassing effect. He leans into the tropes so hard that the unwitting industry folks look, well, racist when they talk him through the auditions. Individual audience members take turns by volunteering to take a seat in the on-stage director’s chair from which a simple script is provided. These scenarios a short and snappy, and always ridiculous. As a collection, they highlight just how awful theatre and film treat and depict migrants, and the lack of power actors hold within the sector. Whilst funny, they are also necessarily uncomfortable particularly for those in the arts who have endured or perpetuated these paradigms.
In between these auditions, he coaches the audience on how to be successful immigrants in the UK. The convincing side hustle is broken into individual lessons that encourage us to live up to every offensive stereotype, because anything else simply isn’t recogniseable or understood. For the most part, these stereotypes involve suffering, a poor quality of life, and violence. Though self-effacing, the creative choices ridicule British small mindedness through exuberant encouragement to embrace the ‘savage’ that white British people expect to see when they meet someone from Latin America. The effect is a scathing critique of British exceptionalism and the binary of civilised/uncivilised nations as constructed by white western supremacy. The use of first-person narrative towards the end about growing up middle class is a seaside city is almost a throw-away, but pointedly underscores the entire message of the show.
However, this is very much a piece constructed of two distinct parts. Though their alternation provides structure and they are thematically linked, there is little direct interaction between the auditions and the immigration lessons. They work well to address Britain’s racism and xenophobia from two angles, but there’s little interaction between them. Some further dramaturgical integration would give the show further cohesion and polish.
That said, Garcia Lueches’ charm and enthusiasm are infectious, as are his playful punches at British society. Though the show’s aesthetics are fun and scrappy, the political intent is highly sophisticated and well-conveyed.
Playing Latinx runs through 2 April then tours.
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