PIAF: The Year I Was Born is Educational, Engaging and Stunning
The Year I Was Born attempts everything, and gets everything right. It has singing and dancing, guitar solos, acting, storytelling, laughter, shock and more, and each part fits perfectly into the undeniably brilliant whole.
The performance starred eleven individuals telling the true personal stories of their families and themselves in Chile during the reign of dictator General Augusto Pinochet (and the years before and after). I would call these individuals “actors”, but they aren’t, really; while they frequently did act, they were primarily presenting as themselves, which gave the show a striking sense of reality. Each of their stories (some were children of Pinochet supporters, some of their parents were members of rebel groups, some escaped Chile and scattered across the globe) melded into each other to construct a fluent timeline of events told from an array of perspectives. It reveals stories of struggle, persecution, resistance, complacency and hard-earned triumph. Towards the end, the show cleverly links the historical events depicted to contemporary struggles (including a shout-out to Roe 8 protestors) in a way that feels neither obvious nor naive.
The show was developed by Lola Arias, an Argentinian writer and director whom had previously presented a similarly minded show focussing on her homeland (My Life After). In an interview in the program for The Year I Was Born, she describes the show as “more [of a] social experiment, rather than the kind of play that already has a set narrative and way of conveying it.” This loose structure allows each story on stage to flow into another, allowing for nary a minute of passive viewing. Some details of the performers’ stories can be so chilling it places the audience into an almost voyeuristic position. These moments are balanced with a healthy dosage of humour, even in dire situations, and genuine engagement (not to mention, education) throughout. While lasting for almost two hours without an interval, I never once felt like the show overstayed its welcome.
Regardless of how much you know of Chilean history, The Year I Was Born is a striking piece of theatre that opens your eyes to the injustices and struggles faced by people across the globe. It doesn’t shy away from the starker instances of reality, but rather than fill you with nihilism, will ultimately give you a new appreciation for the (relatively) peaceful lives we are mostly accustomed to. This is truly an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
The Year I Was Born runs from the 15th-18th of February. Ticket purchasing and event information can be found here.