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Image credit: Toni Wilkinson

Review by Alex Watson

Written and directed by Lola Arias, The Year I Was Born is a startling insight into the lives of those born in Chile during the reign of Augusto Pinochet.

The production crew of Fundacion Teatro a Mil has done an admirable job of coordinating sound, lighting and props as the nine actors retell their parent’s stories. Entering the Heath Ledger Theatre, I wondered how they would present the subtitles, as I don’t speak Spanish, and if an hour and 50 minutes was too long without an interval, but I needn’t have worried. A projector screen towards the back of the stage allowed for subtitles and also served as a great storytelling medium. Using historical documents, photographs and recorded footage, the screen provided an engaging backdrop to the characters narration.

The use of props was sparing but significant, each object whether it be the bullhorn, bike, or matches was used with specific a purpose; to engross the audience into the political and social climate of Chile under Pinochet’s rule. Some of the stories were heartbreaking in their tragedy, others got laughs from the audience, but all actors on stage had experienced some kind of loss from the political upheaval. The harmony in which the actors worked left not a moment of boredom as each of their stories were interwoven with others until you were left with a rich tapestry of Chilean lives. The overall experience was educational as well as emotional, with so much history told by those who had been directly affected by it. I left the theatre with a newfound appreciation for docu-drama productions and will be closely watching for any future works by Lola Arias.

The Year I Was Born played at the State Theatre Centre of WA during the Perth International Arts Festival 15th – 18th February 2017