Chunga is a dark, smoky affair which tackles adult themes of desire,
fantasy, gender roles and greed. Set in a seedy Peruvian bar, it
introduces the 'inconquistables' (the 'undefeatables'), a group
of foul-mouthed men who revel in their debauchery, and La Chunga,
the reticent landlady who suffers their jibes.
action centres around the night Josefino, the brashest of the inconquistables,
offers to make a trade with La Chunga. If she will give him gambling
money, he will loan her his latest beautiful conquest, Meche, to
whom La Chunga is evidently attracted. The deal is struck, but the
next day Meche has disappeared and La Chunga is keeping characteristically
the absence of any juicy details about what happened between the
two women, the inconquistables let their imagination run wild. As
they remain centre stage gambling and drinking, La Chunga and Meche
act out the men's fantasies about what might have occurred that
night. In this way the audience gains an insight into the alcohol-fuelled
interior worlds of these macho characters, which are sordid but
alive with passion and even at times sensitivity.
Chunga was written by the controversial, and critically acclaimed
Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, and is certainly an interesting
choice by director Andrea Ferran. The cast and crew ought to be
commended for their gusty attempt to portray the desperate lack
of equality and opportunity endemic amongst the poor of Latin America,
which contrasts poignantly with the privilege enjoyed by their Oxford
one suspects they might have bitten off more than they can chew.
Whilst Christina Paul as La Chunga creates a dark, simmering air
of mystery, Aaron Costa-Ganis captures the repulsive egoism of Josefino
and Elizabeth Kiernan is a suitably naïve Meche, there is a
distinct lack of chemistry between the cast. In a play which bubbles
with sexual tension this is a serious flaw.
cigarette smoke which drifts over the heads of the audience convincingly
recreates the atmosphere of the vice-ridden bar, and the lighting
is used effectively: the proud Josefino is illuminated with a harsh
white spotlight whilst La Chunga lurks in the dark corners of the
attempts at authenticity are undermined by some quite frankly awful
Latin American accents and a cast which rather unfortunately looks
(and speaks) more like British students than the toughened underclass
these practical problems, La Chunga remains a thought-provoking
and challenging hour of theatre. It leaves the audience uncomfortable,
disgusted even, and unsure of whether it is the characters who are
contemptible or, as La Chunga claims, 'it is life that is the monster'.
views expressed in these comments are those of the contributor's
and not the BBC.