The Rotting Hart

Aug 5 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Accomplished

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30): Thu 3 – Sun 13 Aug 2023
Review by Allan Wilson

Writer and performer Daniel Orejon’s solo show, The Rotting Hart for Crested Fools, is a timeless, queer horror story set in rural Spain, where the unnamed protagonist lives alone with his father.

He has had no contact with other people so is profoundly disturbed when a mysterious young man, Diego, comes to live with them. Initial suspicion and fear gradually become an intense, destructive and transformational passion.

Daniel Orejon in The Rotting Hart. Pic: Molly Wilders

Inhibitions are gradually released after Diego encourages the narrator to come with him to explore the remains of a nearby monastery. They find the scriptorium, which includes samples of erotic Arabic poetry and documents hinting at ‘ungodly’ passions shared by some of the monks.

A hunting trip on which the narrator is forced to share a horse with Diego, leads eventually to consummation as Diego comes to the narrator’s bed at night when his father is on a rare absence from the home.

Moments of intense passion lead to animalistic transformation, with the narrator feeling himself transforming into a hound, while Diego slowly becomes a stag. The return of the narrator’s father and his subsequent discovery of the relationship between his son and Diego results in an ending worthy of a gothic horror.

skilled and engaging

Director, Flavia D’Avila, works with Orejon to make imaginative use of the set’s sole prop, a wooden chair which transforms between a gun and a passionate lover in human and animal form.

Orejon is a skilled and engaging storyteller, bringing both physical intensity and subtlety to the part. He switches between English and Spanish delivery. Non-Spanish speakers may miss some nuance in the text, but the story is not hard to follow.

There are occasional short readings from Spanish legislation relating to homosexuality at different times. In the distant past, punishments included death by fire and castration. Even in the 20th Century, under the Franco regime, homosexuals could be interned indefinitely in a forced labour camp. Equal marriage was introduced in 2005. To help the audience, a handout provides an English translation. Orejon uses a subtle hand gesture to let the audience know when the translation is available.

It is Orejon’s physical performance that makes The Rotting Hart a memorable piece of theatre, from a fevered shaking on the floor as the audience files in, through graceful movement between stage and audience, to the physical contortion of his hands and feet during the transformation scenes.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR (Venue 30)
Thurs 3 – Thurs 13 Aug 2023
Daily: 7pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Crested Fools Links:

Twitter: @CrestedFools
Facebook: @CrestedFools
Instagram: @crestedfools


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