O Bonde’s Desfazenda – Bury me out of this place, is a unique play exploring the lives of four people, 40 (Ailton Barros), 23 (Filipe Celestino), 12 (Jhonny Salaberg) and 13 (Marina Esteves), who were taken to a farm as children and enslaved. They are supervised by Zero, a foreman who is the only one who sees the priest who owns the farm. Directed by Roberta Estrela D’Alvia, and written by Lucas Moura, this original drama is both heartbreaking and horrifying, as the characters realise that the world outside the farm might not be exactly what they’ve been told it is. The play was originally performed in São Paulo and is performed in Portuguese with English subtitles.
The piece opens with haunting singing and an upside-down view of the sea. We hear a mother and child discussing an animal the child has trapped, just to see if they could, and the consequences of trapping something, a clever foreshadowing of the child’s horrific future which creates a palpable sense of dread.
The play then moves to the four performers, talking in sync and outlining the reasons for their justified anger. Musical Director, Dani Nega intelligently uses rap and singing within the play to enhance the drama of the characters’ stories and create a sense of poignancy.
The characters remain at the farm due to the threat of the violent and catastrophic war outside the confines of its boundary. This begins to fall apart when 12 eventually questions the seriousness of this war and whether it is even real at all. What if the world outside is safe for them to escape to? A clever reimagining of Plato’s Cave, these characters are exploring the notion that the world they are trapped in definitely isn’t all that there is, but outside is far worse than the already horrible situation they are in.
There are some very insightful references in Moura’s writing and the replacing of the characters’ names with numbers early in the piece creates a real sense of the loss of individuality, while maintaining some uniqueness as each character receives their own number. Delicate and oxymoronic dialogue, such as drowning in dryness, add a sense of poetry which links back to the musical elements of the piece beautifully.
Lighting and sound are cleverly used to create a sense of disorientation and dread. Photographic imagery and the use of shadows enhance the feeling of the loss of individuality the characters experience while the presence of rosaries illustrates the importance of religion to the characters despite their seemingly hopeless circumstances. Haunting church bells create a sense of horror, subverting the comforting elements of faith and acting as a poignant reminder of the passage of time.
The importance of writing and the lifeline this provides to the characters, particularly 13, creates a real sense of tenderness, while diaries kept by some of the characters create a permanent record of their stories. The honesty and vulnerability of journals add deep emotions to the stories of these characters. All four actors deliver brilliant portrayals veering from fury to heartbreak to rebellion to resignation with ease.
Desfazenda – Bury me out of this place, is a haunting drama which subverts expectations and gives you a lot to think about. The threat of an external war contrasted with the possibility that the real war is on the inside, creates a suffocating sense of being trapped in an impossible and hopeless situation. When everything comes to a head and starts to collapse, the brutal honesty of this piece of drama is thought provoking and shatters the foundations on which this story is built.
Desfazenda – Bury me out of this place is being streamed by Ukraine Fringe until 3rd September 2023 and is available to watch here https://www.scenesaver.co.uk/production/desfazenda-bury-me-out-of-this-place/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 26th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: