Review: Nàufrags (The Shipwrecked) by Lluís Danés

Nàufrags is a piece of visual / puppet theatre on the theme of ‘the shipwrecked’, created by the film and stage director Lluís Danés. The last instalment in Mercat de les Flors’ innovative performance cycle Oh! Poètiques de la Il.lusió is a visually and atmospherically accomplished piece, engineered to disturb its audience with a range of cinematic devices. Billowing black bin bags, mood lighting and sound effects alone definitively evoke the cold, clammy atmosphere of a savage open sea; were that not enough, though, the baritone voiceover from Michael Jackson’s Thriller and a set of sorrowful musical motifs, performed by the pianist Xavi Lloses and local singer Bikimel, edge us towards the storm.

The human cast are joined by a quartet of ghoulish marionettes with the high sharp cheekbones of a skinless Zsa Zsa Gabor. Deftly commandeered by Dora Cantero and Anna Marín, they seem to refer to the living-dead victims of some ghastly genocide; but Nàufrags’ allusion to the refugee crisis – a connection made by the cinematographer Andrés Hispano in a short presentation before yesterday’s performance – is a bit troubling. The puppets mainly spend their scenes bickering and kicking each other, yet later, one engages in a sex act with its puppeteer: an eyebrow-raising moment that ends in some confusion, as a tumult of baby dolls swing down on ropes. What this has to say about the migrant tragedy is unclear as it is – but with events in Cologne still fresh in our minds, you might have hoped for a more considered approach.