• Amy Toledano

Autoreverse presented by Battersea Arts Centre

Image courtesy of Alex Brenner

What Is It?

Commissioned by the Battersea Arts Centre as part of their Going Global season, Florencia Cordeu performs this audio-visual show directed by Omar Elerian.

What Is It About?

How do we remember home? How can we hold onto the memories of those we love who are no longer with us? This autobiographical solo performance ponders these questions as Argentinian performer Florencia Cordeu delves into her family history through their cassette tape recordings of the late 1970s and 80s. As the Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla took power in their home country, Cordeu’s parents fled to Chile, thus beginning their long distance communication with the family they left in Buenos Aires via the medium of recorded sound. Through these recordings, we learn of the struggles this family endured whilst witnessing the bonds and joyous domesticity of their private lives whilst Cordeu herself reflects on her present life in London.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

There is always something titillating about a show that invites its audience to participate. Though this is used for the briefest of moments, it is an essential part of Autoreverse for in its opening moments, we are invited to kick off the action by playing a cassette tape - a somewhat amusing task in a world where downloaded media and bluetooth technology are the norm. Yet this moment sets the tone of this piece - at once playful but at the same time possessing the painful happiness of nostalgia.

Though Cordeu is the sole live performer of this show - enigmatically garbed for most of the show in a white hazmat suit, looking as though she’s stepped off the set of Silent Witness - the presence of her family is keenly felt through the use of the cassette recordings. Carefully handling each cassette with the respect of an ancient artefact, the fragments of Cordeu’s family’s lives are pieced together as she plays each tape in the cassette players that scatter the stage. Though non-Spanish speakers like myself may not understand the details of certain recordings, Cordeu’s verbal translations and the captions projected on the back of the stage offer a glimpse into this highly personal world, bringing particular imagery back to the fore again and again. Even without understanding the exact words or phrases, the characters and personalities of Cordeu’s family shine through in the recordings, painting a rich picture of their inner lives.

The flow of this piece is somewhat lyrical in the way it meanders and ebbs. There is looseness to the way time and space are handled in this narrative, bringing the ephemeral nature of living memory to the structure of the show. Indeed, the complexity of the execution of this narrative is masterful as Cordeu interacts with the recordings of her inherited history - this is a show impressive both in its technical elements and performance.

Anything Else?

Florencia Cordeu’s flare for comedy is charmingly showcased as she brings the light to a narrative that could easily be very heavy. Yet, the comedy highlights the moments of pathos, making this an emotionally impacting piece of theatre.

Alexandra x

Autoreverse is playing at the Battersea Arts Centre until February 22nd 2020.

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