The Day Sam Died

Aug 22 2014 | By More

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New Town Theatre (Venue 7)
Tues 5 – Sun 24 August 2014

The Day Sam Died is a production of rare emotional and theatrical power at the New Town Theatre.

Image from The Day Sam Died

Sofia (Lisa Eiras) and Samir (Marcos Martins) in The Day Sam Died.

Presented in Portuguese with surtitles, this is a production which overcomes any potential language barriers to present a compelling picture of a fractured health care system that has resonances far beyond Brazil.

In Armazem Theatre Company’s production, three characters called Sam are involved in a scenario at a hospital that plays out in three different ways. Junior nurse Samuel (Jopa Moraes) starts a siege at gunpoint in a confused attempt at making an iniquitous health care system more bearable. Judge Samantha, played by the heartbreakingly powerful Patricia Selonk, refuses to play the system and move up the list for a transplant. And, in another magnetic performance, Marcos Martins is former clown Samir, now suffering with Alzheimer’s, attempting to reach some kind of understanding with his daughter Sofia (Lisa Eiras).

a monstrous, compelling figure

At the heart of it all are the doctors. Arthur (Ricardo Martins) has become blind to his failings, beaten down by an impossible system. Meanwhile, chief surgeon Benjamin has no such worries. He knows exactly what is wrong but as long as he comes out on top, he doesn’t care. In a towering performance by Otto Jr, he comes across as a monstrous, compelling figure, attempting to keep self-knowledge at bay through drug addiction, rage, exploitation and hatred.

If this sounds like a soap opera, the ability of the whole ensemble ensures it is nothing of the kind. Director Paulo de Moraes (who also wrote the play along with Mauricio Arruda Mendonca) uses a huge variety of imaginative, experimental techniques to make a fluid, powerful whole. At times the nightmarish mood, Ricco Vianna’s thumping rock music and the sheer horrendous vitality threaten to overwhelm.

It is still profoundly thought-provoking, however. The questions of how to allocate resources are relevant not just to Brazil, and not just to healthcare. Benjamin’s contention that ‘society is just an abstraction’ has obvious echoes. And the impossibility of holding on to principles in a world where everything, even life, seems relative, is as frightening as the scary clowns that could be the most frightening thing for some audience members.

At times, there is a tendency to become a little wordy and confused, a situation not helped by the familiar problem of the surtitles sometimes being in less than idiomatic English. However, this is more than overcome by the atmosphere, conviction and sheer thrilling power of the performance.

The most disappointing aspect of the whole thing is that such an accomplished, well-received production continues to play to such small audiences. There must continue to be a place at the Fringe for foreign language theatre, especially when it is as good as this.

Running time 1 hour 25 minutes
New Town Theatre, Freemasons’ Hall, 96 George Street, EH2 3DH (Venue 7)
Tues 5 – Sun 24 Aug 2014
Daily at 1.45 pm
Tickets from

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