Latin Lives

Interviews: Guido García Lueches, Dre Spisto and The Ephemeral Ensemble discuss the multiplicity of Latin American identity

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 4 minutes
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Playing Latinx
Photo by Vicky Polack
Published 17 Aug 2023

“Latin America is huge, right? It’s hundreds of millions of people, and bigger than Europe a few times over,” Guido García Lueches says, speaking to us about his show Playing Latinx at the Fringe. “And yet there’s this imagination that the cultures all blend together.”

Like most labels we use in an attempt to pin something as multifaceted as identity onto paper, the identifier ‘Latin American’ searches for two things at once: commonality, but also the vast multiplicity of individual experience. At the Fringe, three artists are exploring different facets of Latin American identity through comedy, physical theatre, and clowning: resisting the flattening of cultures and experiences, and performing counter-narratives into being.

Lueches’ Playing Latinx mines comedy from the idea of performing one’s identity as an immigrant. It combines an autobiographical story about a Latin American actor trying to “make it in the UK”, and what Lueches calls a “very politically incorrect seminar, where this alternate persona of mine teaches the audience how to be a good immigrant.”

Comedy and politics are excellent bedfellows in this show where “silly” always wins, the Uruguayan actor says. “If I’m making you laugh, you’re already on my side. And then maybe I’ll charge you for the laughs by making you reflect on what you’ve been laughing at.”

El Dizzy Beast, photo by Hector Manchego

Also approaching identity from a place of silliness is Dre Spisto, a professional “art buffoon” whose El Dizzy Beast – a tender, explosive blend of performance art and comedy – centres a queer, autistic, Latinx caterpillar. Spisto, who cannot currently return home to Venezuela, conceived of the show as a way to deal with post-pandemic loss, and as an ongoing reckoning with their identity as an immigrant “living two realities”; an autistic person searching for connection; a demisexual person in an open relationship. 

Being a caterpillar is “to explore unbecoming,” Spisto says. “Especially when you come from an immigrant background where your parents have sacrificed so much for you to be here, we’re always so focused on how successful you’re going to be. But what if I don’t want to become a butterfly? What if I’m in transition my whole life?” The show is a space of joy and visibility for queer and trans people: “Sometimes our defences are so high that it’s hard to feel joy and connection. But I’m going to show up and risk being open with an audience, because that’s how I can be brave.”

Rewind, photo by Maria Falconer

The Ephemeral Ensemble’s Rewind takes political violence and resistance in Latin America as its focus, weaving physical theatre from the testimonies of refugees exiled from Latin America to the UK in the 70s, and those who migrated here between 2019-2022. Revolving around a criminal investigation into the disappearance of a woman named Alicia, it’s a dramatisation of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated work of forensic anthropology: the scientific but also symbolic process of recovering the remains of those “disappeared” by political violence – seeking closure for their loved ones, but also as an act of defiance against authoritarian regimes. 

“Something the show does quite beautifully is that there is this reconciliation to pain,” director Ramon Ayres shares. “And though the performance is based in Latin America, the piece looks to the trauma and injuries of many nations, and brings the past, present, and future into dialogue.”

It’s a performance of immense scope, which began with one word: “resistance.” With its fascinating multidisciplinary approach and analogue aesthetic – to mimic a criminal investigation happening in real time – Rewind poeticises forensic work in deeply lyrical ways. “People say the forensic anthropologists give voice to the bones,” Ayres says. “The bones reveal the truth.”