Let’s talk about drugs. Let’s talk about the way we talk about drugs. Most importantly, let’s talk about the drugs industry itself, and the effects that the production and export of cocaine has had on the livelihood of Latin America. Beginning life as the result of a collaboration between the London collective Blackboard Theatre and Columbian artist Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, Stardust is an eye-opening, heart-pounding solo show that is destined to become a sell-out hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Stardust is a show of extremes, both deeply emotive and piercingly cynical.
There are several intertwining stories at play here: modern socioeconomic context is wound around the tale of the coca plant, considered a sacred gift from the gods by the indigenous people of South America and - of course - rapidly converted into profit once discovered by colonists and returned to Europe in the 15th century. What begins as a TED talk soon turns into something much more: an impassioned plea on behalf of a maligned and misunderstood country, with Umba mocking, embracing and ultimately rejecting the gun-toting, powder-sniffing stereotype inflicted upon himself and his fellow citizens.
It’s a fast and furious race through theatrical genres, aided by ample use of beautifully designed projections that take us from the jungles of Columbia to the streets of London in the blink of an eye. Ever wondered what taking cocaine might do to your body? A particularly well-executed sequence of both the highs and devestating lows experienced by Class A users will save you the trouble of finding out.
As a writer and performer, Torres Umba is nothing short of exceptional. From scene to scene, he owns the stage like a man possessed: whether sashaying through a drug-fuelled Saturday night or leaping into the arms of unsuspecting audience members, it’s impossible to avoid absorbing some of his infectious energy. The novel idea of appearing to run the narrative through ‘secret’ prompts from his team, hidden in white boxes amongst the audience to keep the show ‘fresh’, means that there is a sense of dangerous instability as we wait with baited breath to hear what is to happen next. Flirtation turns into fixation with the innocuous powder, as Miguel confesses to us that he has never actually tried cocaine himself. The assumptions made by airport staff, UK police and passers-by, then, become all the more powerful.
Stardust is a show of extremes, both deeply emotive and piercingly cynical. Originally intended as a conversation starter, this is a show that you’re going to be raving to your friends about for the rest of the festival.