HYSTERIA 2009 – Blue Box by Carmen Aguirre

By John Bourke


Carmen Aguirre, the author and performer of the piece, tells the audience at the opening of the show that Blue Box, is not the real title of the show.  The real title is Blue Cunt, but she thought it would be difficult to publicise with that name.  Fair enough, you really shouldn’t say cunt in public.  It’s impolite. Blue Cunt, by the way, is apparently the female version of Blue Balls, which happens when you don’t get enough sex. I had never heard of it before this show – who says you don’t learn anything going to the theatre?

Blue “Box” is part of the 2009 Hysteria Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.  It is a story pulled from Aguirre’s own life experiences.  It tells of a youth in the Chilean resistance, her two husbands, encounters with a “vision man”, making a living as an arts worker in Vancouver, and having visitations from her dead grandmother.

The show, which is not so much a play as a dramatic reading, starts with the simple act of Aguirre walking out onto the stage.  Then with no dimming of the house lights, or curtain opening, she sits down and begins telling the story of her life.  With a less talented performer the lack of artificiality in the staging could simply bore us.  With Aguirre on the other hand, it heightens the connection between actress and audience.  It feels like rather than seeing a ‘play’, we are having a conversation with her.

Throughout the performance subtle lighting and sound sneaks in to support the story, but essentially, she carries the entire piece with little more than her voice and wonderfully expressive face.  It’s hard not to be engaged when she talks about her life “in a country where cobwebs grow on your cunt”.

The narrative begins with Aguirre being shown a vision of a man by the ghost of her grandmother. From there it skips nimbly back and forth between her two husbands in Chile, meeting the man from her vision in Vancouver, and some alternately horrifying and inspiring stories of the resistance to Augusto Pinochet’s brutal regime.  This is what drove her to: Argentina, the United States, and eventually, to Vancouver, Canada.  Aguirre is, by the way, also the author of The Refugee Hotel, which was reviewed on this site last month.

Be warned.  There is some language in the show that could be considered a little raw.  So  if you’re easily offended, you may want to stay away from this one.

Blue Box Cunt was only on for one night, but it is only one small part of the fifth biennial Hysteria festival which runs from October 22 – 31. Ticket prices are accessible, ranging from PWYC events to $15 evening passes and an all
inclusive $50 Festival pass.  Tickets are available in advance by calling the box office at
416.975.8555. A full schedule of Hysteria is available on line at www.artsexy.ca

Picture of Carmen Aguirre courtesy of the festival