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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

HE, at Theatre Works' Explosives Factory - 60 minutes

Updated: May 10

The ocean, the family, the lover – 20 years on a man returns to his childhood home and revives memories of his past.


I speak of a small coastal town in El Salvador, a place he swore he would never return.


So, why did he feel the need to leave and now why go back on his word?


All will be revealed in the fullness of time.


The sea becomes an entity in this original work, conceived, written and performed by Salvadoran-Australian Rodrigo Calderón. The waves are wild and untamed, nor will they ever be.


The man with a black beard, dressed head to toe in the same colour, addresses the ocean beside and on a makeshift beach swing that has seen better days.

Photos by Abraham and Daisy Et

He speaks about his father, who was changed by war and became a heavy drinker.


He talks of his mother and grandmother, of a man named Jesús who taught him much and became his lover, often in dark alleyways.


The noxious smell of his youth is still there, just as the shadows of the past continue to linger.


Masculinity is in play and homophobia and dastardly deeds, for this is a story too about sex and sin.


Witnessing his first death changed his life.


And through it all, the man tries to recall a yarn involving the Pope, a monk, a shaman and a kid, but there is a missing piece, which eventually falls into place.


Calderón’s is an extraordinary physical and manly showing – one of pain, pleasure and poetry.


You dare not look away as he cavorts and contorts, bringing us into his character’s world … taking us on a dangerous journey in a coming-of-age tale.

He is intoxicating. He is blessed with movie star looks, complete with piercing eyes and a shock of long black hair.


While the themes become clear as the piece progresses, for a long while you are not sure where HE will end up, but there is a reckoning … a coming together of threads.


For all the fault lines that are drawn, there is also a celebration, but to say much would be spoil the surprise, which I am not about to do.


Suffice to say that that is as all-consuming as the rest of the work, which although esoteric is highly evocative.


HE is the finest of fine independent theatre, mysterious, imaginative and eclectic.


It is on at Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory until 18th May, 2024.


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