La Catrina

BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

14/10/2023 - 14/10/2023

NZ Improv Festival 2023

Production Details

Created by Laenye Productions

Laenye Productions

Step into the enigmatic world of ‘La Catrina’, a magical realism production delving into life, death, and the mysterious in-between.

Join three souls on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery, guided by the captivating figure of La Catrina, who will decide their fate. As the Latin community’s voice is amplified, immerse yourself in a thought-provoking and entertaining theatrical spectacle, exploring the richness of their culture.

14 Oct, 6.30-7.30pm, BATS Theatre

Betsabé Quintero
China Gonzalez
Daniel Fernandez
Francisco Galvez
Juan Asensio
Matías Avaca
Minu Viera

Paco Galvez (He/him)

Improv , Theatre ,

60 mins

Smart, clever and ingenious celebration of pain, suffering, isolation, love and respect

Review by Mitchell Manuel 15th Oct 2023

BATS theatre was more sombre last night as it sheltered the Improv Festival patrons from Poneke’s inclement weather – in my case, for the show La Catrina (from Catrin, the word for sophistication or eloquence). Sombre indeed when faced with the themes of the show’s messages: death, the living and the realms of the spirit world.

In a packed theatre the excited chatter of a younger eclectic audience accompanies a flamenco guitarist, Juan Asensio, in the corner. Battery-lit candles scattered like fireflies, three red boxes and a black chair are the only objects adorning the bleak black-box stage.

Enter La Catrina, a popular Mexican character associated with Day of the Dead: an exquisitely stylised female skeleton with a wreath above her forehead, stitched mouth, sunken eyes, a snowy painted face and a black frock, waving a black fan. As Abuela – the Grandmother, she sings a poignant Latina introduction.

As Abuela moves aside, three characters, two men and a woman, enter. They approach her in their piety as she hands out a card each, like tarot, with red roses or a death mask. They reveal them to the audience and the show unfolds.

The show is cathartic as a number of quests are relived or lived, steeped in Latin culture: flamenco, ofrendas, pathways to the mortal world. It is as much an emersion in ethos as it is in their stories – brought to you by Laenye Productions: Minu Viera (Abuela – the grandmother), Matías Avaca (father and brother to Tio Manuel), Daniel Fernandez (Tio Manuel) and China González (the daughter).

For me Abuela is an amazing matriarchal figure. Like a wizened marionette puppeteer, she pulls strings for those alive and dead. When Tio Manuel (a ghost) begs La Catrina to let him return to the mortal world for “one year, one month, one minute” she agrees. But the Grim Reaper, played by Matias Avaca, argues it isn’t in her domain to grant. Tio gets to visit his niece for sixty seconds: as brief as it is, that offers some comfort for the living.

It may be a cultural shock if you haven’t encountered La Catrina before. Its macabre symbolism was created to symbolise upper class obsessions, with many levels of meaning – so more than just a Halloween costume.

La Catrina expertly delivers a passionate and moving 60 minutes of pain, suffering, isolation, love, respect and music within Mexican culture. Celebrating death in such grandeur and in this medium, telling stories of heartache and loss, is something I’m sure our own Kiwi culture could learn from. While La Calavera Catrina arose as a response to the dictatorship of Porfidio Diaz (1876 – 1911) it goes back further to the age of the Aztecs.

I am certainly moved and would enjoy another chance to witness the smart, clever, ingenious way La Catrina allows us to compare and contrast how, if at all, our own culture honours The Dead.


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