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Review: AUTOREVERSE (Battersea Arts Centre)

The stage is filled with microphones and cassette players, with one tape that bares the words “play me”. The audience sit patiently, and it’s clear that nothing will start until someone plucks up the courage to play the tape. We wait, and our spell of silence is soon followed by an eruption of applause as someone finally makes their way down to the task at hand. As the tape clicks into motion, we are greeted by Florencia Cordeu, the star of this heart-warming show. She’s not physically in the room, in fact she is speaking to us from a couple of months ago, dreaming of what the show might become, as she sits in her London apartment.

The whole show is swimming in nostalgia, as Florencia welcomes us into her family through a series of well-preserved cassette tapes, that are, astoundingly, close to forty years old. Before our technological era, the best way for her family to communicate was by sending cassette tapes to each other, and so we are gifted with these precious little snippets of time that help us build a bigger picture of Florencia’s proud heritage. The whole ordeal is like a forensic investigation, as she takes every precaution to make sure nothing will damage these memories. As she begins to play these tapes, she transports us back in time to her family home in Argentina. We hear the most personal family stories, told by her relatives, and translated for us in English – from talks about her family’s involvement in the guerrilla movement, to recordings of her playing as a child. There’s a slight naivety to this past, as it is completely unaware of what the future holds. It feels like we are reliving these moments with her, as she reminisces about people that have entered and left her life, and there is something truly touching about that for the audience to experience.

Florencia’s acting is so genuine and humble that it feels like we’re experiencing this documented past with her for the very first time. Despite the preciseness and pre-planning of it all, there is still a real sense of liveness in the space. Her reactions to some of the recordings are so raw, that at one point it looks like she might cry. There’s a really nice use of mixed medium, from the cassette tapes, to old film projections, but unfortunately it is clear at that we are not always experiencing the live recordings straight from the vintage sources. Modern technology is definitely in play here, with a stage full of cassette players simply there for aesthetical purposes, it hinders the authenticity of it all. The cassettes begin to ware old, and the structure becomes predictable within a time frame that is perhaps too long for a rather flat narrative. There is so much more potential here for this auto-biographical show, and I feel like the creative team are just teasing us with their abilities.

Despite this, AUTOREVERSE leaves you with a deep appreciation for technology, and its ability to capture and replay these precious moments in time. It leaves you with a warm glow and an urge to reach out to your loved ones. It makes us question what home is to us, as Florencia explores what home is to her, taking you on a journey of self-discovery and reflection. If you want to experience a nostalgic trip through time and cassette tapes, then AUTOREVERSE is definitely something for you!

You can catch AUTOREVERSE at the Battersea Arts Centre until 22nd February, tickets available here:

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