If the opportunity for you to seek your revenge fell unexpectedly into your lap, would you take it?
This is what happened to Paulina Salas when she thinks she has found the man who had brutality tortured her 15 years previously, by random acts of circumstance, in her living room one night.
How could she believe this man who had ruined her life would innocently help her husband, who’s car had a flat tyre, be invited to stay the night, and that the roles would be completely reversed and he would be at her mercy?
Based on recognising his voice and his skin, and finding a CD of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden in his car, throughout the story she is determined to make him understand the horrors she endured and to gain his confession. Salas, the victim of an oppressive military dictatorship, has struggled to rebuild her life but has always been desperately haunted by her violent abuse. This has built into a huge resentment on how it has impacted her life afterwards and we see just to what lengths she will go to to make him pay.
Her husband Gerardo Escobar is shocked to find his new friend beaten and tied up and is dragged into his wife’s dark acts of vengeance.
The man in question is a Dr who fiercely defends his innocence, terrified at being held captive by this crazy schizophrenic. She alleges that he would play classical music (Death and the Maiden) while torturing her to gain the confidence of his victim.
Escobar pleads and begs her to go through the proper channels of authority and the law; Salas feels she can’t rely on justice and would rather do things her own way.
This brilliant production directed by Jeremy Herrin is full of sinister suspense, with the most excellent lighting, music and sound affects by Neil Austin, Stephen Warbeck and Fergus O’Hare to heighten the tension and keep you totally on the edge of your seat.
The set by Peter McKintosh is fantastic, totally bringing you into the couple’s beautiful peaceful, home on the beach, a contrast to the hysteria we see played out.
Facing her demons Salas goes as far into her dark memories of the torture as she can, confiding everything in her husband and eventually they work together in ensuring a confession.
Thandie Newton plays the role of Paulina Salas beautifully, delicate and vulnerable but driven enough by her hatred so that we definitely feel the Dr’s life is in danger. Tom Goodman-Hill as her husband begins the story confident, successful and in charge. He has to gradually give up any control he may have over his wife.
The ordeal with the Dr brings this husband and wife closer as Gerardo gradually understands exactly what had happened to her and why it has changed her.
Anthony Calf as Dr Roberto Miranda perfectly plays on the fact that we don’t know if she has mistaken his identity – if he is innocent or whether we should hate this man who was capable of such evil doings.
You can never tell when your past might catch up with you and Death and the Maiden certainly is a reminder that what goes around comes around.
Harold Pinter Theatre
26th November 2011