la chunga


February 7, 2012 | Category: la chunga | Comments Off on REVIEW:

La Chunga

Reviewed by Vicky Ellis

Venue: The Phoenix Artist Club

Date Reviewed: 7 February 2012


“Chunga (the mesmerising Victoria Grove) is husky and commanding of voice, tolerating the ribaldry of dice-playing ‘super studs’, really just a bunch of cerveza-swigging layabouts.

“Director Andy McQuade draws great pacing and nicely underplayed moments of tension from the generally strong cast, in a piece which boldly explores sexual desire and gender.

“The characters are compelling: why is Chunga content to be alone? Is it because, as she suggests, falling in love makes you weak? Her excellent seduction scene with Meche is both intense and touching, even if you can’t be sure whether it really happened or not.”

REVIEW: Plays to See

February 6, 2012 | Category: la chunga | Comments Off on REVIEW: Plays to See
Review by Suman Bhuchar

In the subterranean setting of the Phoenix Arts Club we are transported into a sleazy bar in the Peru of the 1950s. The proprietress is La Chunga.

The club is “a perfect venue,” as author, Mario Vargas Llosa described it when the Nobel Prize winner dropped in to see the opening of this UK West End Premiere of La Chunga, the 1986 drama that he said he wrote “to project into dramatic fiction the human totality of actions and dreams, of facts and fantasies.” If at one level the play is a hard-edged naturalist depiction of seedy men and the two women that they believe they can control, on another level it also shows Llosa’s trademark techniques of running together realism and fantasy and utilizing multiple perspectives and neo-surrealist strategies to make an audience think about what they have seen.

Central to La Chunga is one of his favorite themes of exploring how women survive in male dominated societies and the way masculinity functions as both reality and fantasy.

La Chunga (Victoria Grove), a tall woman with a deep voice, enters, cleans the bar table, lays down the dice game and proceeds to sit on the rocking chair, fanning herself.  The bar is not only owned by her, it is named after her and the audience quickly realizes there is something exceptional about her and her establishment. Much as with Pinter’s characters, La Chunga’s ability to ignore barbed comments and sneers is a mark of her confidence and self-possession.  Grove conveys the haughty disdain that his powerful woman has of her regulars with a self assuredness that would leave the landlords of the Queen Vic quite stunned. She rivals them in strength and doesn’t let them forget who is in charge.

It is a play about power and territory, but also about exposure and shame and the male actors have to be as brave as their female counterparts in what they are prepared to show to the audience.  If the play is about the battle between La Chunga and her regulars in a patriarchal world where it is clearly unusual for a woman to have any power at all, it also attempts to examine the male character’s deepest and often most forbidden fantasies.

Second Skin Theatre’s taut production is charged with eroticism and an underlying violent tension, with excellent all round performance. Andy McQuade’s direction is sharp . He manages to fuse seamlessly reality and fantasy.  Perhaps unsurprisingly McQuade won best director 2012 from The Fringe Report as this review went to press.

Is this a feminist play challenging notions of patriarchal masculinity and the machismo of the superstuds? Does La Chunga help Meche to escape her likely fate due to sudden feelings of sisterly solidarity? Or is it really about the anguish of unfulfilled love and erotic desire?  Might it be about what women must do to survive in a world ruled by men and their fantasies?

It is a fine production that leaves you with more questions than answers and is satisfyinglydissatisfying with performances as electric as any you will see on the London stage at present.


La Chunga

By Mario Vargas Llosa

The Phoenix Artist Club

Director: Andy McQuade

Producer: Samuel Julyan

Cast includes: Victoria Grove, Nika Khitrova, Stephen Connery Brown, Corin Rhys Jones, Marco Aponte, Tyler Coombes,

Dates:  24 January  to 19 February  2012

Time: Tuesday to Thursday at 19:30 and Sunday matinees at 15:00.

Running Time: 2 hours (includes 15 minute interval).

REVIEW: Diva Magazine

February 6, 2012 | Category: la chunga | Comments Off on REVIEW: Diva Magazine

Our reviewer finds a lot to love about a lesbian indecent proposal

Laura Muldoon

Fri, 03 Feb 2012 10:21:52 GMT

La Chunga by Mario Vargas Llosa sees us transported to Piura, a small town in Northwestern Peru in which four patrons of a small late night bar booze and gamble away money they don’t have on dice which never seem to quite roll the way they’re required. Night after night the men are silently watched by the hard-nosed landlady Chunga, who tolerates their incessant lewd banter and lecherous advances in return for their business and occasional tips.

One night the leader of the gang (and all-round bad egg) Josefino finds himself unable to forget his male pride and walk away from the game, so instead offers his beautiful lover Meche to Chunga in exchange for 3000 sols, enough money to stay in for one more round. Chunga, mesmerised by the beautifully innocent Meche, now owns her for one night only.

The play shows each of the men who were in the bar on that fateful night imagining what happened between Meche and Chunga whilst they were left drinking alone in the bar and spins into an exciting web of reality and fantasy for all involved, especially the audience.

The moment Chunga, played in this production by the statuesque Victoria Grove, walked onto the stage I knew I was in love with her. A totally captivating and believable performance, Chunga or Chungita as her regulars affectionately refer to her as, must be about 6 feet tall. She swaggers around her bar barefoot and sits with legs apart, swigging vermouth as she is teased and prodded by the men who frequent her bar. They ask her repeatedly, desperately, to tell them what happened on the night of the indecent proposal but she usually responds with her favourite come-back ‘ask your mother’ in her husky… amazing, voice.

After seeing La Chunga described as ‘a highly charged erotic feast for the senses’ and now having seen the production myself, I would have to agree. The play was searing hot with sexual tension especially between the two women characters with the dingy but warm hispanic style set adding to the heat generated by the cast. Victoria Grove is unequivocally HOT and a short blast of British fresh air during the interval between acts was much appreciated. The small performance space at the back of the Pheonix Arts Centre was a perfect location for this play with the gentle chatter and merriment of people outside coming through the walls but brilliantly complimenting the bar atmosphere on stage. It was so intimate a late-arriving audience member virtually sat down at the table the actors were playing out their dice game on.

After seeing what happens between Chunga and Meche in the first act and some brilliant flamenco style dancing, we come to the second act where the tone changes slightly. In typically dark Vargo Llosa style we are shown the sometimes quite unsettling imaginings of what happened that night from the four men who were present and a lot of complex themes are touched upon, including domestic violence, rape and some more regular violence, the highlight performance-wise comes in the form of an outstanding monologue to the audience from Josefino which had everyone on the edge of their seats.

La Chunga was a totally unexpected but wonderful find and from a lesbian perspective, it was frank and honest portrayal of female sexuality which was erotic and at times very touching. If you can catch this play before it finishes on the 19th February, you must as it’s very rare to find such a brave and unique production.


LA CHUNGA by Mario Vargas Llosa

Phoenix Artist Club, 1 Phoenix Street, London WC2H 8BU

January 24 to February 19, 2012

Express News Weekly on La Chunga

October 12, 2011 | Category: Blog,la chunga | Comments Off on Express News Weekly on La Chunga Express News Weekly on La Chunga

Translation of Review of Second Skin Theatre’s Production of “La Chunga” in Express News Weekly: Latin American News

13 September 2011, Number 599

La Chunga and our hidden miseries


Adaptation of the work by Mario Vargas Llosa under the direction of Andy McQuade

by Lara Valencia Vences


The basement of Ryan’s Bar is where Meche and La Chunga are hiding. It’s difficult to imagine that on the edge of Stoke Newington there is room for Vargas Llosa’s mysterious characters. In the confines of The Church Street Theatre, I had the privilege of entering into the fantasy of La Chunga’s bar. This rich production has a diverse cast with different accents, including a Latino accent essencial for putting the play in context. This English adaptation of the play respects the passion and fury of the original Spanish, and is more than worthy of the work of Vargas Llosa. According to Andy McQuade, director of the play, this project was a great challenge.

The tiny stage of the theater has been converted into a rustic bar of the 1950s, owned by a strong woman, La Chunga, and frequented by Josefino, El Mono (the monkey), and Lituma, who spend their nights betting, drinking, speaking of their doubtful conquests, and taking pride in not wanting to work. With the arrival of the sensual young Meche, Josefino imposes himself as the head of the gambling table. Meche’s sensuality unsettles all the characters, unveiling their secret weaknesses. They find themselves enslaved by Meche’s enchantments and La Chunga’s austerity.


The primitive feelings and passions of the characters reveal to us our own hidden miseries. In Vargas Llosa’s own words, the work was written “to project in dramatic fiction the totality of human actions and dreams, of facts and fantasies”.


I want to give special recognition to the actors, who interpret each of the characters faithfully and with integrity, and to Andy McQuade for appreciating Vargas Llosa’s talent, and for understanding the power of the story. By the end of the play, the audience has experienced a work of great energy, and the direction of a genius of the theater, in an authentic Peruvian bar inhabited by ideas coming from the chaos of the human condition.


Info: La Chunga continues until the 2 of October in

The Church Street Theatre

181 Church Street London N16 0UL



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