Saturday 11 May 2024

He review

He commences with a man crawling out of the ocean and onto a beach. He looks frayed and exhausted. He has returned to a small town in El Salvador, a place he swore he's never set foot in again. Written by Rodrigo Calderón, He is a heartbreaking love story of a man growing up in a community run by toxic masculinity and homophobia.

Calderón gives a captivating performance as a man grappling with the trauma he has experienced. While the story veers into some serious melodrama and improbable twists, Calderón is able to keep the work grounded and allow for genuine emotions to be released and expressed. Calderón also brings great physicality to the role and transfers the man's emotional turmoil into a striking physical representation.

The narrative is told in an erratic yet intimate way that grants the audience the opportunity to better understand the struggle he has faced. However, the concluding moments need to be reconsidered so that they don't diminish the impact of the work. The stage's transformation into a flashing, multicolour light display and smoke-filled dance floor is quite jarring. Audience members are directed to come into the space and dance. It's chaotic and feels a bit unsafe to participate in, especially while Calderón is angrily dancing, aggressively shoving chairs around, and throwing small items across the room. Calderón's disappearance from the stage raises uncertainty as to whether the show has ended, which is never a good sign, particularly as he does not return for an applause.

He is a story of a man's childhood, family, faith and sexuality. It's about the love and comfort he's sought that is constantly out of reach for him. There are structural issues with the storytelling and an ending that's more conflicting than supportive but Calderón's words and performance still find a way to penetrate your mind and soul where you observe yourself being swept into the ocean with him.

Show Details

Venue: Theatre Works Explosives Factory, 67 Inkerman St, St. Kilda

Season: until 18 May | Tues - Sat 7:30pm (Friday shows performed in Spanish)
Duration: 50 minutes

Tickets: $45 Full | $35 Concession
Bookings: Theatre Works

Image credit: Abraham

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