A black box space, one woman, a percussionist and a backing track. Devoid of extravagant production values yet colourful, immersive, descriptive and emotional, 'Juana in a Million' is a emotive whirlwind which charts one Mexican woman and her attempts to make a new life in London.
The tale itself is harrowing. Prejudice, squalor and a feeling that she should be grateful for any tiny chance she is given are the only welcomes which greet Juana when she arrives in England upon trying to escape the violence back home. Based on a true story as it is, this show is an awakening and arresting experience for an audience who (certainly in my own case) may have had very little idea of the reality of life for workers such as Juana. Indeed as the name suggests, such incidences are not uncommon, remaining a significant issue in British cities. In this instance 'Juana in a Million' is achieving what all theatre should strive to do; express, inform and open its audience up to ideas beyond the immediacy of their own lives.
Vicky Araico Casas' portrayal of Juana is honest and heartfelt. As well as expertly shifting between a variety of different characters from the creepy colleague Ali to the Mexican mother using distinct vocal and physical characteristics, Araico Casas gives humour and light to role which could easily be depressing. Moments of comedy (an internal monologue when faced with a fat immigration officer provoked hearty laughs from the audience.) were littered liberally throughout, varying the mood from the poignant, to the human and amusing. The physical representations of Juana's work were particularly effective in communicating the monotony and physical strain of her life. These interspersed with moments of traditional dance and salsa make this simple show a visual as well as emotional riot.
Thought-provoking, erudite and engaging ‘Juana in a Million’ was a significant success with the audience, receiving a standing ovation from some and would almost certainly touch any watcher. Definitely one to catch- go see it.