Norwich hosts UK premiere of show lifting mask on plight of street children
PUBLISHED: 14:26 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:44 12 March 2018
The plight of millions of street children in Latin America is highlighted in Betún, a theatre performance from an international renowned mask theatre company that will get its first ever UK performance in Norwich.
Of 100 million children currently living on the streets worldwide, 40% are in Latin America. Betún tells the story of one of these children. It explores the loneliness and dangers endured by those who have no choice but to live outside.
Without words and told entirely through music, masks and movement, Berlin-based international performance group Teatro Strappato’s deeply poignant piece has resonated with audiences worldwide, but this is the first time it has ever been performed in the UK, produced by Je Ne Sais Quoi Theatre.
Betún was created from interviews carried out in Latin America with children living and working on the streets. The result is a theatrical poetry performance about a stark and disconcerting reality that oppresses too many children in the world.
Through the everyday life and dreams of the titular character they bring out the indifference but also the humanity that lies on the streets.
Betún lives, dreams, works, sleeps and plays in the street; the road is his comfort blanket and the pavement is his living room and his house is made out of cardboard. He is part of the landscape, so constant that no one notices him, no one sees him.
Writer-director Vene Vieitez, who along with Cecilia Scrittore also designs and produces all the Teatro Strapatto masks, said: “This show features a modern story, a fable of our times that could start with ‘Once upon a time there was a street…’ So our hero is not exactly a hero, he’s smaller, let’s say he’s the quarter of a hero, and as in all time-told fables there are many ugly and wrong things, bad things.
“Betún’s story is the colour of his home, his life; a dark fable of dreams and realities. That’s why this show isn’t divided into acts or scenes, but instead into four dreams and five realities that show us the journey into hell of a child condemned to the street.”
The genesis of the show dates back to January 2016 when, after several months of bibliographical research, the members of Teatro Strappato made a month-long trip through Bolivia, in order to carry out fieldwork with street children.
“These children are united in scandalous figures that fluctuate between 100 and 150 million, depending on the organisation that contributes the data,” said Vene. “In this way these individuals become a number, a statistic without identity, ready to be published and forgotten in the inflated information market.
“We also know that about 40% of these abandoned children wander the streets of Latin America. The morphology of the problem varies according to the region and we decided to focus on the Latin American case in which, with different levels of severity depending on the country, the detonators of this situation result mainly in the immense disfunctionality within the family structure, accompanied by critical cases of alcoholism and domestic violence.
Armed with their research Teatro Strappato set about creating responsible show informing the public about the tragic reality that these children live.
He added: “A key point of support for the investigation was the Centro Tiquipaya Wasi in the city of Cochabamba, as we had the opportunity to coexist for a period with young people who had lived in homeless situations. With them we held a theatre workshop through which we were able to learn more about their life stories.”
Teatro Strappato are renowned for performances involving masks. “Betún is a show where the mask allows the audience to immediately identify with the characters on the stage and creates a language that requires no words,” he added.
“It is a show full of sounds and noises, but without a word, because the story it tells is not a story that can be spoken; it is a story of things that just happen when you’re born on the unfortunate side.”
• Betún will be performed at The Garage, Chapel Field North, Norwich, on March 14, 7.30pm, £11 (£8.50 cons), 01603 598646, thegarage.org.uk