Some plays maintain their relevance because some horrors never go away, Ariel Dorfman’s captivating psychological thriller Death and the Maiden is one such work. Receiving its Australian premiere more than 20 years ago, today it resonates even more chillingly as the world watches dictatorships crumble and retribution reign.
Military rule is over and the new democracy looks towards a brighter future. But for victims of the old regime, such as Paulina, memories are a prison. Through months of pain and degradation she never saw her tormentor’s face, but she heard his voice, calm yet menacing in her ear, a voice she will never forget. When her husband Gerardo invites a stranger back to their isolated beach house, she hears that voice again.
Argentinian born director Leticia Cáceres brings a personal awareness to this production which features an exceptional cast including Susie Porter (Puberty Blues), Eugene Gilfedder (The Effect) and Steve Mouzakis (The Slap, Where the Wild Things Are).
“I regard Death and the Maiden as part of my heritage,” says Director Leticia Càceres. “Part of a dark past shared not only by a number of South American countries such as my homeland Argentina, but over and over again in so many places around the world. I am honoured to be able to share it with a new audience and demonstrate why this play is so powerful, and remains so tremendously important.”
Written in the wake of the Pinochet regime in Chile, Death and the Maiden won the 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Twenty years on and writing about its 2011 West End revival, Ariel Dorfman said “It happened yesterday but it could well be today… I can’t help but ask if 20 years from now I will be writing this phrase all over again: this story happened yesterday, but it could well be today.”
Ariel Dorfman has been called a literary grandmaster and one of the greatest living Latin American novelists. He is a Chilean-American author of fiction, plays, librettos, poems, essays and films in both Spanish and English. Among his other plays are Reader, Widows, The Other Side, Purgatorio, and Picasso’s Closet. In 2008 he penned the libretto for an operatic version of Death and the Maiden.
Dorfman’s fiction includes Mascara, Hard Rain, The Last Song of Manuel Sendero, Konfidenz, The Nanny and the Iceberg and The Burning City which was co-authored with his son Joaquin. A documentary based on his memoir, A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel, received numerous prizes and was short-listed for an Academy Award.
“As well as raising important issues, the play is also gripping, with much of the intensity of a first-rate thriller.” – The Telegraph
Director: Leticia Caceres Cast: Eugene Gilfedder, Steve Mouzakis, Susie Porter Set & Lighting Designer: Nick Schlieper Costume Designer: Anna Cordingley Composer & Sound Designer: THE SWEATS
Death and the Maiden
The Sumner – Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Season: 23 July – 22 August 2015 (previews: 18 – 22 July)
Bookings: (03) 8688 0800 or online at: www.mtc.com.au
Wharf 1 Theatre – Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season: 2 September – 17 October 2015 (previews: 28 – 31 August)
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 or online at: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Susie Porter in Death and the Maiden – photo by Jeff Green