As much as the Edinburgh Fringe is about entertainment, it’s also a place where audiences can be challenged and find themselves learning about subjects they never imagined. Sadly, I know very little about the South American country Colombia, and I know even less about cocaine which has become one of the country’s biggest exports. So, Stardust from Blackboard theatre was, for me at least, a true revelation.
Stardust is written by Daniel Dingsdale, but it is conceived and performed by Colombian artist Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, who is Blackboard Theatre’s artistic director. Miguel was apparently moved to conceive the piece to change perceptions of his country, which has become associated with narcotics.
He is a very engaging performer, the entire piece feels very natural as if it’s being performed for the first time, there’s also a beautiful honesty inherent in Miguel’s solo performance which immediately endears the audience. The play lays out the consequences of the drug trade to Colombia, exploring both the human and environmental effects, it is at times heart-breaking, but also hilariously engaging.
Stardust uses a variety of disciplines to get the story across, there is of course a strong sense of storytelling, but this sits comfortably beside dance, music, comedy and even a highly entertaining gameshow style segment. This combination of styles works well to almost trick the audience, you are learning and don’t even realise!
Video projections and animation are used very cleverly to create a depth in the performance space. The way the animation blends with the live performance looks fantastic, and the overall piece feels almost cinematic in its staging despite relatively few props.
Stardust is a highly compelling and extremely interesting piece of performance art which uses innovative techniques to tell a hugely important story. If, like me, your only knowledge of the drugs trade is from movies, then you will find this an utterly eye-opening experience.