Theatre Ad Infinitum's Bucket List is seamless in its choreography and performance. It is both in concept and in production truly collaborative - the product of collective development of an idea - and it is performed with such high energy from every performer on the stage that it's almost tiring just watching it. The combination of physical theatre, live music and dialogue of a heightened oratory style bounds along for the hour and a half of the show and you come away breathless: moved, shocked, informed and questioning. I'll admit, the intensity which characterised all of the performers' engagement with the text and the movement took a while to get used to, but in the end it provided the piece with a sort of child-like enthusiasm to get across its point. It was impossible not to listen.
The central protagonist in the story, Milagros, has an agenda of revenge/political upheaval which she plans to orchestrate by violent means. She is inspired by her mother's fierce protesting against the violence her, her community and her family have suffered as a result of the NAFTA agreement. But Milagros, however, plans to kill the men with whom the blame lies, according to the list her mother was clutching as she was killed at a protest.
Although it might appear that the specific context of the play and the NAFTA agreement signed by Clinton in 1994 are no longer the most relevant issues in our issue-burdened world, they have never received their due attention, even though thousands of Mexican workers lived (and died) in awful conditions after the agreement was signed. In any case, the questions raised are relevant - the main thematic question of the piece being the means of protest available to individuals in an oppressive and violent system. Whose means of dissent is more valid - one which is peaceful and intellectual but gets you killed or one which depends on violence and murder but ultimately succeeds?
It is explored in a way which treads a fine line between fantasy and reality; we are never sure how many of the acts of violence which Milagros commits are real and how many are due to her cancer-induced hallucinations. Does the fantasy element undermine the moral quandaries explored? It certainly plays into a 'she woke up and it was all a dream' narrative, and what's more the cancer plot point is never fully explored; her reaction to her diagnosis is left for the audience to assume. But the action onstage is so slick and fast-paced, you conveniently don't have a chance to notice these quibbles until after the show has finished and the dust settled. Thus perhaps they belie a script which could be developed even further, but they do not undermine the potency and the power of the story and the storytelling on show.
This piece is a double triple-threat. Drama, song and dance make up the first, and Bucket List is a beautiful hybrid of the three forms of performance. The other, which Bucket List has buckets of, is the special combination of storytelling, ethical questions and meaningful artistic expression - a triple bill which make great theatre great.