“We Must Throw The Cows Down The Ravine” Is An Incredible Performance On A Limited Run
Tackling the issues surrounding mental health — and the issue of schizophrenia specifically — can be a daunting challenge. But in this innovative, brave, and no-holds-barred production, one play that is making its London debut manages to do it deftly, with talent and compassion. We Must Throw The Cows Down The Ravine, from the Venezuelan Theatre Company La Caja De Fósforos Teatro and Teatro Del Contrajuego, is coming to the Cervantes Theatre from July 18 to July 20. Staring Charlotte Carroll, it’s a performance you don’t want to miss.
Based on the book Las Voces del Laberinto (Voices of the Labyrinth), by the Spanish author and journalist Ricard Ruiz Garzon, the play covers the stigma around mental health issues, as well as the journey from onset to recovery. Director Orlando Arocha utilizes a raw, direct style for maximum impact to deeply and intimately explore the issues around mental health.
Carroll, the lead actress and producer, understands that the topic is too important to ignore.
“The work is very poignant as the topic is something people used to be too afraid to talk about,” Carroll tells What We Seee. “We are now at an age where we are more open to listening, this has created a great space for a play like this to live in. Mental health is so important to us all and the less we isolate any issues or differences people may have, the better.”
A Crucial Dedication
There’s no doubt that mental illness is a vital topic — one that inspired many involved in the production. But it was also the incredible team — and perseverance of this production — that drew Carroll to the work.
“As a producer, it was very crucial I make this play happen for many reasons, not just the mental health aspect but also because the team is from Venezuela,” Carroll explains. “The director is award-winning, not just in theatre but also in opera — Orlando Arocha adapted the play and told me about his vision and I was so moved I jumped right to it.”
And it hasn’t been an easy journey. The tenacity of the team involved, especially when it was originally put on in Venezuala, shows an amazing level of dedication.
“The play was originally put on in Venezuela, in an environment so hostile the government raided the theatre to confiscate props and turn off the electricity so they couldn’t perform. Orlando and Diana continued by asking the audience to use their phone lights — and they finished the play.”
Then the play went world-wide. Once they started the ball rolling, so many keen talents came together to make this production a reality.
“We tested out one monologue with the Diana Volpe, who has won best actress awards in Venezuela and Europe,” she explains. “She was so compelling, I thought — yes, this is a must! We then cast the brilliant Fiona Gordan and the Venezuelan Julio Bouley and Gian Carlo Ferrini.”
Now, for three nights, they’ve found a home in London and they’re so happy to have arrived. “It would not have been possible without the support of the fantastic Cervantes Theatre, Jorge de Juan, and Paula Paz,” Carroll explains.
Maintaining Integrity In Difficult Waters
One of the most laudable — and challenging — parts of this production is that it draws from real-world experiences. The story looks at four people’s real-life accounts of mental illness. Delving into what happens to the brain, the line between reality and illusion, and so much more, there is a huge amount of integrity in how they approached the material.
“As one of the lead actresses, I play the Schizophrenic Princess, who is so sweet and harmless but is constantly misunderstood,” Carroll explains. “Her account — which is a real person’s account — is very moving and highly descriptive, giving everyone an insight in a way they would not have normally have thought about. This change of perspective is crucial and why I would like the play to live on after this run so more people can see it. The importance of drawing from real-life testimonies is that it’s raw, unedited, and really shows it how it is. There is no sugar coating. That’s what we need as actors and what the audience needs to really understand a new viewpoint.”
Working with real stories means that it’s crucial to stay true the original voice and narrative. “The challenge does come, of course, when you’re stepping into someone else’s shoes, I want to fill though shoes as honestly and as best I can,” she says.
Though it’s a performance that’s faced so many challenges and takes on such a vital, complex topic, there’s a quiet optimism to the production that’s so important.
“I hope the audience is very moved, very informed, and leaves feeling very hopeful,” she explains. “I say hopeful as we are, I want to believe, created equal. This play is portraying and exploring a mindset that should not be deemed as an outcast anymore.”
“We Must Throw The Cows Down The Ravine” is running from July 18 through July 20, you can book tickets through the Cervantes Theatre website.