… is just the abbreviated title of Peel The Limelight‘s latest production:
The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World.
We were invited to watch the play on its opening weekend at the Spark Drama Space in the Jasmine City Building.
Written by Shaun Prendergast, the production is based on the true and tragic tale of Julia Pastrana; a Mexican woman born with severe disfigurements whose life was characterised by exploitation as she was sold and exhibited as a freak around the world.
Described as a sensory performance, the programme promises “an unprecedented theatrical experience”.
It certainly delivered.
The space is small and essentially pitch black, save for a few flashlights directing you to your seats at the start.
And, crucially – you’re blindfolded.
By stripping away your sight, your other senses inevitably heighten. While ‘traditional’ plays focus primarily on what the audience sees, Peel The Limelight puts the focus on what you can hear.
And lets your imagination fill in the visual gap.
Thanks to incredibly strong vocal performances and creative sound effects, this is remarkably successful and pulled off with aplomb.
Despite not being able to see the actors, images and identities for each character are easily conjured as the voices are so distinguishable and developed. While there are clearly no weak links in the cast, Siree (Wan) Riewpaiboon gives an exceptionally strong performance as the title character, Julia.
With a melodically rich Mexican accent, we were taken aback to find out after the performance that she was actually Thai with no discernable Latin heritage. As well as the authoritative accent, her monologues and dialogues were filled with pathos and paid Pastrana’s tragic life justice.
James Laver as Theodore Lent was also excellent as the psychopathic antagonist and chief exploiter of Julia.
Settings and atmospheres were quickly established by the cast who, despite being only 6 in number, manage to make a lot of noise and hubbub with just their voices, bodies and a low-key soundtrack.
We highly recommend The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World.
For those intrigued by contemporary theatre, Peel The Limelight’s production is an exquisite exploration in creative drama and the imaginative power of sound.
For those used to traditional theatre trips, we’ll admit it – this certainly isn’t The Sound of Music. Regardless, the unique one-hour experience combined with the vocal talent on offer translates to the hottest ticket in Bangkok’s theatre scene right now.
Tickets are still available for shows on November 21, 22, 27 and 28 and can be bought here.