MIguel Hernando Torres Umba talks about STARDUST at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: MIguel Hernando Torres Umba
Name of Edinburgh show: STARDUST
Venue: Pleasance 10 Dome Performance time: 4:20 pm
Show length: 60 mins Ticket price: £6.50 – £11.50

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Hey Wilma. I am a London based performer and theatre maker, originally from Colombia where I trained in acting before moving to the UK. Once in London I trained in a physical theatre technique called Corporeal Mime. Since 2008 I have worked a lot with Carnival Arts company Mandinga Arts as a performer and facilitator and in April 2017 became Associate Creative Director there. I have also worked extensively with Immersive Cinema pioneers Secret Cinema starting out as an actor, becoming a performance director for shows like, Back to the Future, and finally working as the Associate Creative Director in the core team that delivered some of the companies most ambitious productions including 28 Days Later, Star Wars and Moulin Rouge.

In 2016 I established Blackboard Theatre as a channel to champion collaboration between artist from Latin America and the UK and create work that is challenging, entertaining, speaks about current social-political issues and pushes the company and the audience out of their comfort zones. This show, STARDUST, is my debut at Edinburgh Fringe and I’m unbelievably excited to share this really personal piece with the audience here. It is extra special as the Pleasance in Edinburgh was one of the first theatre venues I worked in, as tech support, when I first came to the UK over 10 years go Tell me about your show, what it is all about?

STARDUST is an entertaining, irreverent and impassioned investigation into the human cost that cocaine production, trafficking and consumption have in Latin America and further afield. This multi discipline solo performance, mixes new writing, physical theatre and stunning animations to tell the tale of the chain of lives and deaths that turns a coca leaf, sacred to indigenous communities in Latin America, into a line of coke on a mirror in the western world.

Bringing together contrasting stories from a range of Colombian voices, Stardust is written by Daniel Dingsdale, originated and performed by Miguel and brought to life through a strong creative collaboration between Colombian, British and French artist who created a distinctive emotional journey told through Colombian eyes.

Stardust sold out its original run at Southwark Playhouse for CASA Festival 2017 and gained 4 and 5 star reviews at Vault Festival 2018 (where the piece won Vault Festivals’ ‘People’s Choice’ Award).

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
We have been working on STARDUST since late 2017 though the idea of doing a show about this subject has been with me for about three years. The first exploration was a short physical theatre piece from which it became obvious the piece needed a bigger team and their skills for it to fully resonat . In 2017 we were selected as artist in residence for CASA Latin American Theatre festival, the creation of the piece started off as an organic collaboration between a group of artists; myself, animator Diana Garcia, sound designer Luis Bonilla, writer Daniel Dingsdale, designer Luke Harcourt, Lighting designer Alex Marshall and consultant Angelica Quintero and blossomed from there. Our scratch performance at CASA Festival, sold out and then the fully developed piece supported by the arts council moved onto VAULT Festival and Streatham Space Project where it has had amazing responses.

Whenever we see stories about drugs or Colombia and Cocaine on TV, films or theatre, and there are quite a lot of them at the moment, they tend to be stereotypically obvious, every Colombian character is a narcotraficante, a gangster, a mule or a prostitute, but little we question the reality behind the stereotype and even less what role we play.

With STARDUST we are looking to offer new perspective and to reflect on the subject matter, but above all we want the audience to experience an emotional journey achieved through the mix of styles and tools that touch the inner fibres of the audience and invites them to be part of the conversation that needs to be had.

Also, in a time where I believe that we are globally becoming more aware of our interconnectedness and the web of cause and effect that exists across borders and nations, this piece speaks directly to the huge political and social implications that one little Saturday night bump in a Shoreditch or Edinburgh toilet can have. Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?

This is my debut in Edinburgh so I am as ignorant as anyone! It’s all an adventure! Lots people have advised me to try and eat well, to cook for myself, to take breaks, to exercise and I am going in with all the best intentions to be the absolute pinnacle of Edinburgh Fringe practicality and rigour but…..well….it probably won’t work out that simply.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
In my other life as a carnival arts performer I have spent many days dressed as a rainbow monkey with a “naked” ass and big hanging purple “balls”, running round the streets making people laugh. It’s wonderful!

I’m just going to leave it as that.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
People who have managed to stay true to their artistic vision whilst expanding the scope of their work and establishing companies where everyone feels emotionally invested.

Two people come to mind, Danielle Finzi Pascal a Swiss Director whose has directed Corteo and Luzia for Cirque du Soleil, various opening ceremonies for Olympic Games as well as having a highly successful touring company, the one is closer to home and it is Amit Lahav from Gecko theatre which whom I will have the honour to work with in once the Fringe is over.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Apart from body and vocal warm up there are two things I have been doing before Stardust, one is a bit of silly dancing, it’s just a good way to get into the playful mode I need for the show. The other ritual I have is Coca tea; coca is a sacred plant for indigenous communities in Colombia and sadly the proliferation of Cocaine meant that the world has no understanding of what this medicine is and the goodness in it. I don’t necessarily do a full tea ritual, I just have it whilst I am preparing and it helps me to remember the reasons why I am doing this show and somehow connect with the ill treated plant that needs to be vindicated

What other acts are you looking forward to see?
To be honest I haven’t had the time to go through the program and pick my faves, but I am certainly looking to support the work of friends and colleagues. Like the ephemeral Ensamble’s Off stage. I am also very excited about Circolombja, the only other Colombian show in town and a company whose members are young performer who have fought really hard to overcome life difficulties in Colombia to become larger than life examples of what can be achieve with dedication and passion.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
STARDUST is an unique show about cocaine that digs deeper into what everyone think they know about it and tells a side of a story people have not heard before, in an exciting, visually rich and emotionally engaging way. In the words of a previous reviewer “Theatre can change the world. This is one of those shows” – why would you not want to check that out!!

Stardust is Pleasance 10 Dome from August 1st – 27th


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