for writers and readers….

The Extraordinary Lesson of a Satire about Power

Fifty years ago a young Brazilian playwright wanted to say something important about the nature of power: not how it was won, but how it operates and makes ordinary people acquiesce in their own suffering.

It’s a testimony to Roberto Athayde’s script that Miss Margarida’s Way still has the ability to shock. I went to an extraordinary production in London last week. We, the audience and a solitary, silent male actor, become year 8 students.  For nearly two hours  we were subjected to the full force of our teacher’s personality.

It’s a cliché to say that a performance is compelling, but in this instance no other word will do. I didn’t look away. My attention was fixed and I’m pretty certain that was true for everyone else at the Drayton Arms Theatre in Kensington. I don’t know, of course, because my eyes never left the two actors that played the one role. Normally this is a one-hander, but in 5go Theatre Co.’s production Hanna Luna and Leena Makoff both play Miss Margarida at the same time, almost seeming to occupy the same space at certain moments.

Like an old married couple, the actors appear to be so familiar with each other’s physical presence they never need a lightening glance to check where the other is on stage. It is, however, the words coming from two mouths – and one very manipulative mind – that nail you to your seat.

The actors weave in and out of sentences and pauses, come together to rant, break apart to seduce and shock. The most powerful weapon in Miss Margarida’s (she always refers to herself in the third person) arsenal is the shifting sand of her emotions. She is ice and fire, liquid marble, a temptress and a torturer.
Does she want you write on the whiteboard?
Answer a question?
Laugh at a joke?
Keep quiet?
You can never be sure and that means you can never be safe.

I thought of Hitler, Idi Amin, and the worst aspects of Trump. Even my own experience of being employed by Robert Maxwell jumped to mind because he was a man who managed his companies by whim.
The friend I was with – whose own background is in social work and the criminal justice field – saw every abuser she had ever encountered in her professional life. And we were both right.
Unscrupulous exploitation of power wherever it plays out – in government office, the boardroom or across the kitchen table – is torn from Miss Margarida’s lesson plan.  
The play was written during a military dictatorship in the author’s own country. Tragically, it is still as relevant today as it was in 1971.
I might have given the misleading impression that you are in for a grim night if you get a chance to see this production. Watching acting of this quality is never hard work and at times it is hilarious.
It is unsettling though.
As we got up to leave, my friend whispered, ‘It is the end, isn’t it? Miss Margarida isn’t playing a trick on us, is she?’

Photo credits: Natalie Kay @photographybynataliekay 

Miss Margarida is teaching again for three nights at Bread and Roses in Clapham, South London October 11th, 12th, 13th.
Tickets available HERE

Miss Margarida’s Way is a lesson in the importance of satire and the sheer bloody wonderfulness of live theatre.

2 comments on “The Extraordinary Lesson of a Satire about Power

  1. beth
    October 11, 2021

    sound like such an interesting piece/performance

    • bridget whelan
      October 11, 2021

      I think it was quite a hit on Broadway in the 70s and is performed regularly n mainland Europe, but not so much in the UK.

      Must admit I hadn’t heard of the play or the playwright before.

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This entry was posted on October 11, 2021 by in News and tagged , , , , .


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