I love discovering new places in London and the Calder Bookshop & Theatre is a particularly pleasing new find, given how much I love both books and theatre.
The bookshop specialises in theatre, philosophy and politics; the theatre is located just behind it and is an intimate space, accommodating an audience of just 32 people. Its wood panel flooring, armchair-type seating and exposed brick walls make for a fascinating setting.
The curtain rose tonight to reveal a set cluttered to the point of chaos. A candelabra dangled, precariously, from the ceiling, while books, gramophone records and broken glass were strewn across the floor: a hole gaped in the window pane.
The reason for the chaos soon became clear: we were in the Buenos Aires home of “The Colonel”, which was bombed two days ago, leaving his daughter in hospital. He sits, slumped, in an armchair while his wife, brittle and medicated (nicely played by Sally Ripley), picks a fight with him.
To one side of the set are two journalists drinking coffee. One of them believes the corpse of Eva Perón (“Evita”) to be housed in a container behind the Rialto cinema. And so we find ourselves in 1960s Argentina, brought to life vividly by Eva Halec’s play, ‘Irish Coffee’.
Far-fetched as the above hypothesis may sound, when Evita died many Argentinians refused to accept the fact. This play explores that disbelief by dispatching the two journalists on an investigation to find out whether Evita’s abducted corpse has been hidden by the dictatorship that disposed her husband, Juan Perón. It’s on this journey that they meet the Colonel – and his wife.
It’s an interesting premise and an interesting play, brought to life by four thoughtful performances. I enjoyed the cat & mouse game between the characters; everyone, it transpires, knows more than they are letting on. I also liked the insight the play gave into the Argentinian psyche and just why Eva Perón was loved – and also reviled – by her countrymen.
I’ll definitely return to the Calder Bookshop & Theatre; it’s a quirky, welcoming venue different from any other I’ve visited in London. Do seek it out if the opportunity presents itself; it’s a mere five-minute walk from Waterloo station and well worth checking out.