Looking for América – Mermaid Arts Centre – Review
Mermaid Arts Centre and Once Off Productions present Looking for América
25 – 26 Mar 2022
It is fair to say that Federico Julián González (or Fede) has lived an interesting life! He was born in El Salvador during a period of turmoil. Fede was just five years old when his father was arrested by the Military Junta for helping the rebels. Fede’s family was forced to flee for their own well being, living in various South American nations for brief periods. This play allows him to share his story and also tells how he eventually found a home in Ireland.
The other element of the story is given away in the title. You might expect América to be a place but it is actually a person. América was a young women he knew during his time in El Salvador, a friend of his family who eventually ended up living in Cuba. Recently, Fede along with his mother returned to Cuba. They set out to find América using what little information they had, many years after their last contact.
This is a one man show, with Federico centre stage for the duration. The only prop is a red suit case which he moves around the stage, illustrating his peripatetic lifestyle. The play is broken into a number of different chapters, with brief musical interludes between segments allowing Fede to dance around the stage. There is also extensive use of video and other images projected onto the back wall of the set, which enhance the storytelling. There are still images of his family members who are mentioned in the text, video of his family and friends, and also some stylish illustrations.
While Fede has lived an interesting life, he is not a trained actor and there are moments where his lack of vocal training is obvious. He is, however, a warm and compassionate man, and this shows through his insights into life and how it should be lived. It is difficult to tell the story of a life as there is no natural denouement. The account of his search for América gives some focus to a tale which otherwise would have lacked structure. It is rewarding to hear the tale of a refugee at a time where it is a constant in the news and to show a human face behind the facts and figures.
Written and Performed by Federico Julián González.
Written and Directed by Janet Moran.