Review: La Chunga

Written for Time Out

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s play is a highly charged curiosity, with its hand firmly in its trousers. Despite director Andy McQuade’s valiant efforts it feels like little more than theatrical masturbation.

Chunga runs an establishment populated with barflies or ‘Superstuds’, whose lives revolve around ‘Wine, women and song’. But when the daddy of this motley crew, Josefino (Stephen Connery-Brown), lends his beautiful new paramour Meche (Nika Khitrova) to Chunga (a charismatic Victoria Grove), the two women disappear upstairs and things get steamy.

As each man’s fantasy plays out, Vargas Llosa’s strange story fractures into a sequence of desires. There’s the kernel of something interesting here as notions of societal power and sex become inextricably linked. But the stop-start structure ensures it never quite gets into its own rhythm, resulting in frustration, not climax.

The actors throw themselves into some pretty dodgy material with sporadic flashes of deep feeling. But there’s only one reason why this Peruvian episode of ‘Sexcetera’ is selling out to packed houses in the Phoenix Artist Club. And it’s not Vargas Llosa’s ‘poetry’.

Runs untill 19 February

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Please note in original and printed copy of this review Patrick W Doherty was mentioned as Josefino, this has now been amended to reflect the updated casting of Stephen Connery-Brown.

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