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Sydney review- Fade: a powerful play

By Paul Kiely


By Tanya Saracho

Directed by Jeneffa Soldatic

A National Theatre of Parramatta Production

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

Church Street, Parramatta

Season: 2 – 5 August 2023 Bookings:

Duration: 100 minutes approx (No interval)

The Latin-American experience in the United States is a struggle against discrimination, racism and inequality.

Fade’ is an exploration of these issues from the perspective of two Latino co-workers in a ‘predominantly white’ television production company in Los Angeles. It serves as a case study of the migrant experience which could apply in any developed western nation such as Australia.

Tanya Saracho writes from the heart. Her script is full of emotion. Her purpose is clear and to the point. Her story is concise and her characters are real.

The play may contain some heavy content, but it easily carries the audience for 120 minutes with its self-deprecating humour of Latinx stereotypes.

There are only two characters we meet in Fade’, this helps to keep matters uncomplicated, but we are only understanding issues from one perspective. The play gives scant consideration to the many white folk that embrace multiculturalism by welcoming and embracing all migrants in workplaces.

Lucia (Camilla Ponte Alvarez) arrives at her new job to provide creative input into the script of a successful TV soap. Although of Mexican heritage, Lucia has spent much of her life in Chicago and has written a book, so she comes with street knowledge of American life. In the privacy of her office, she vents frustration at the constant belittling and mocking of her contributions in planning meetings by fellow staff. Her misogynist boss gives her menial tasks which have no creative role.

She feels like an ethnic outsider and props up her confidence by displaying an illuminated Christ-figurine, trinkets and family photos. Her corn snacks and beer give mild comfort as she declares that “all gringo candy is plastic.”

The only other Latino in the workplace is the janitor named Abel (Casper Hardaker). He minds his own business and just goes about his duties of vacuuming, cleaning and clearing wastepaper bins while listening to upbeat Latin music on headphones. His first encounter with Lucia is demeaning. She assumes that he cannot speak English and so gives directions in Spanish. But Abel considers her to be ‘Fresa’ – a wealthy but haughty Mexican who flaunts her class.

Over time, their shared ethnicity forms a bond. Lucia begins to use Abel’s life experience of under-privilege, domestic abuse, child-rearing and incarceration in her script and plot developments. The boss likes these storylines and Lucia’s job status gets elevated.

Naturally, tensions arise. Love interests and promotions are not mutually shared. It is as if Lucia’s cultural identity and accent fades as she seeks success in the gringo’s world.

The two actors are perfectly cast in their roles. Camilla Ponte Alvarez brings a feistiness and sexy charm to the determined Lucia character. On the other hand, Casper Hardaker displays a calm and considered demeanour which the character of Abel requires. Their interactions on stage are well-geared and chemistry is flowing.

Director Jeneffa Soldatic connects the audience with the storytelling so well. Although plenty gets said via dialogue, much of the messaging is through body language, expressions and actions.

Creatives work has shone. Lighting, sound, costumes and dialect coaching were brilliant. The single set, being an office, hallway and cleaners annex are very cleverly designed.

With themes of inequality, insensitivity, racism, drugs, abuse and the power of self-belief, ‘Fade’ is a powerful play. Its Australian premiere begins this week at Riverside.


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