Finborough Theatre, London SW10
Opened 8 February, 1993

The U.S. government (or certain of its officers) now pays bounty on illegal immigrants caught at the border: $10 per wetback. Naomi Wallace's 75-minute, one-act play focuses on a trio of vigilantes: dumb, amiable George and Greg, a Chicano with confused ethnic loyalties, do it to pay the rent while patrol leader, revenge-of-the-nerds David, is either helping to pay his way through college or just enjoying the petty tyrannies he can impose on his fellows as well as the fugitive "beaners".

There's some trenchant comment contained in here, like the casual rape of female captives before handing them over and the endemic anti-Hispanic racism and exploitation (cf. Nannygate passim) but it's couched in a script which audibly creaks. The bonding rituals are interrupted by each patrol member doing his "show" a soul-revealing monologue, which is found as the play progresses to contain lies and cover-ups, leading to ugly truths and potentially lethal confrontations. It's the classic claustrophobic formula, and three committed performances under the fluent direction of Kate Valentine can do little to alleviate it. If Wallace were to add a second act we might have an intriguing Rio Grande variant on Waiting For Godot, but here she imbues her dramatic structure with no more than mechanical movement. Not rad, not even rad-ish.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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