Who Killed Pablo Neruda? (A Poet’s Journey)

pabloneruda

Pablo Neruda

Mystery, poetry and the unknown contents of a white bag spark a young woman’s quest into the life, death and writing of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Age category: 12+

Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh
7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2HE

Pablo Neruda was to Chile and the Spanish-speaking world what Robert Burns was to the Scots; a national poet with a strong romantic bent; radical politics and a complicated personal life.

This play introduces the great man’s poetry; albeit (for the most part) in its English translation. This play recounts one young American woman’s search to find out more about the life, the mysterious death and the poetry of the Chilean bard.

Neruda had been the Chilean representative in Madrid at the time of the Spanish civil war. He was friendly with the gay Spanish poet Garcia Lorca.  Lorca’s murder by the Francoists led to his political radicalisation.  He became supporter of the Communist Party and lived a life on the run from the Videla regime in the 1940s.

Neruda was a man of great contradictions; he supported Stalin, he was a womaniser, yet he wrote the most wonderful and tender love poetry. This is brought out clearly in this ‘jukebox’ play.

Neruda made many enemies.  He was in hospital suffering from terminal cancer when the Allende government was overthrown in a military coup by General Pinochet  (with covert CIA help) in September 1973.  Within a few days, Neruda was dead. The claim at the time was that he had suffered a heart attack.

For years it was rumoured that he had been poisoned on Pinochet’s orders by a lethal injection given to him by a doctor in the hospital. The results of an autopsy conducted on the poet’s exhumed remains in 2013 were released in June 2015 suggesting that he was infected with a highly toxic bacterium. It looks like Neruda really was murdered.

This production is an affectionate look at the poet; with his imperfections and his sublime verse. The Syracuse University Department of Drama have produced a real gem; a fine introduction to the great man’s work for newcomers and a great reminder of his greatest hits for those who already know and love it.

Reviewed by David Kerr

Four Stars ****

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