Last week, after leaving it until the last minute to book a ticket, I decided to go to the theatre on my own. This was for two reasons; firstly it was too late to ask a friend at such short notice and secondly, I didn’t want the nagging regret that I had missed the opportunity to see it when it was on my doorstep.The other reason, that I omitted to mention before was, that I rather fancied seeing Marti Pellow in action again, after his performance in The Witches of Eastwick a few years before at the same venue.
I just love the mans voice; it hasn’t lost its power or tone, if anything, it is better now he has matured. Of course, the man is also very easy on the eye, even with his greying beard, he still cuts a sexy presence on the stage.
So I arrived at the venue in just about enough time to grab a pre theatre drink from the busy bar and made my way to my seat. Luckily, when I booked my seat the night before, there were four left in the front row. As I have an ATG card (Ambassadors Theatre Group), I got a discount and a good price. I chose the seat at the end of the row because there is nothing worse than having to clamber over other people, especially if you are alone.
So far, so good. The only thing was that the seat was incredibly close to the stage. This performance had the orchestra at the back (or pre-recorded music?), which meant that I was sat on the covered area where the orchestra is usually located. I found out after the interval, when I returned from a different entrance, that I was in the wrong seat! I sat in the AA row, when I should have been in row A. Once the problem was sorted, I had a much better view, and I am sure my neck appreciated it too.
I have to say though, that in the first seat, I was so close to Marti Pellow when he came to the front of the stage, that I could almost see up his nose!
He played the part on Che, who appeared to be an onlooker or narrator, dressed in a similar attire to the other famous Che (Guevara), who was from Cuba, so I was confused about the association in the beginning.
The first scene started with the open casket of Eva Peron, lying in state in Buenos Aires. Crowds filed past her body in their thousands; a sign of her popularity with the nation. Che displayed signs of irrelevance; even cynicism from the sideline. The famous “Don’t cry for me Argentina” played throughout the poignant scene, with the first appearance of Evita through a veiled balcony above, as a ghostly apparition.
The next scene showed Eva Duarte’s humble beginnings and aspirations to make something of her life. She was portrayed as a bit of a loose woman; climbing the ladder of fame by sleeping with men who could help her build her career as an actress. Culminating in eventually meeting Colonel Juan Peron, the then influential Minister of War.
They meet at a festival held for the victims of the San Juan earthquake. Colonel Peron organised a national relief effort to help the victims and the festival is held at Luna Park Stadium where the most popular stars of the time are invited to perform. Their relationship starts after the meeting and they are soon living together.
Due to her poor background and career as an actress, she is not accepted into Buenos Aires society. She is looked down upon and even shunned by some, as is portrayed in the stage version of her story. She is, however, adored by the masses; working class people with a similar background as her and becomes their spiritual leader.
Eva’s time with Peron gives her a political education, she learns from him and when he gets arrested and forced to resign in 1945, Eva rallies the ordinary people, or descamisados, meaning “shirtless ones” and Peron is reinstated.
Soon after they are married, Peron wins the elections in 1946 and Eva becomes the first lady of Argentina. She has made an impression and almost gains the respect of Society. She uses her political knowledge to speak to the women of the nation, culminating on the law being passed to give women the right to vote in 1947.
I would draw a parallel here with the popularity of Princess Diana. They were very similar in a lot of ways; they both outshone their men, whether intentionally or not. They both were extremely glamourous and they both had an empathy with the common people, by doing good work and being loved in return. They also died young……
She works tirelessly for the descamisados and the Maria Eva Duarte de Peron foundation is created to assist the elderly, women and children of Argentina. She works long hours and her health starts to deteriorate.
1949 Eva creates the Peronist Womens Party and by 1951, the party is responsible for netting over 63% of t he new women’s vote for Juan Peron. After Peron is asked to run for a second term as president, it is suggested that Eva should run along side him for vice-president. Eva’s health is suffering and despite massive support from the people, she declines to run for office and shortly after collapses.
Back to the show after the impromptu history lesson! This was the part of the story that really got to me. The actress that played the role of Evita, Madalena Alberto, was so convincing in the hospital scene, where she is racked by pain from cancer, that I felt that I was in that room with her and her husband, feeling their pain.
She was in a hospital bed, her husband by her side. She was worried that she would not be well enough to help him with his duties or be able to carry on her work with her “people”. She cursed her weak body for letting her down because she had so much more to do. She rose from the bed and collapsed, her husband rushing to her side and when she was on the floor singing “Don’t cry for me Argentina”, she had real tears falling down her face and consequently, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place, such was the power of her performance.
The last scene was the same as the first with the open casket and the streams of people filing by to show their respect. The only thing that was different was Che’s attitude toward her. He was not indifferent to her this time. He mourned her death along with the nation who loved her.
I was so glad I went to see this play, even if it was on my own.