Going out into the street is like getting into the sea. Do you remember that there used to be a milkman? There should have been a wineman, so that he could always bring wine and we wouldn’t have to go out to buy it.
The neighbours’ car alarm’s going off and driving a woman and her husband crazy. When she goes over to ask them to turn it off she meets the smothering and formidable Agusta who won’t let her leave. The woman then experiences the bizarre world of a family who are completely out of touch with reality, others and themselves.
In this work, Mariana de Althaus takes a sardonic look at the middle classes during the years of economic crisis and terrorism lived through by the Peru of Alan García’s first government. In the great tradition of the absurd, what makes us laugh in Noise is also what has the power to disturb.
In a well-to-do neighbourhood in 1980s Lima, just before the 11 o’clock curfew, a car alarm is going off on the street. A man can’t concentrate on an article he’s writing, so he asks his wife to go over to the owners of the car to get them to turn it off. The wife arrives at her neighbour’s door in her pyjamas with this straightforward intention and simple request. However, when face to face with her neighbour, Agusta, she is pressured into coming in for a drink and gets drawn into a bewildering relationship from which it proves impossible to extract herself. Agusta disarms her with over-familiar and absurd questions, as well as an intrusive commentary on her marriage, casting doubt on her husband’s fidelity. This all seems like pure fantasy until Agusta’s punk rocker son, Agustín, enters and announces that he has seen the neighbour’s husband driving away with a suitcase in the boot of the car. Disorientated by this new information, she becomes further susceptible to the absurd world of this strange family and, after curfew passes, she is well and truly imprisoned in the home. Agusta’s outspoken teenage daughter then arrives and betrays what emerges as a family trait: a remarkable out of touch-ness with others, and a lack of contact with what’s taking place in the outside world and with reality itself.”. She talks about being extraterrestrial as if this were a matter of fact.
Noise is a play with allegorical undertones. It recalls Peru of the 1980s: the hyperinflation, the scarcity of basic produce, the never-ending queues to buy sugar or milk, the terrorist violence of Sendero Luminoso, the curfews, the bomb scares which closed schools, the car bombs which could go off at any moment. The noise itself comes to stand for this reality and the need to disconnect and deny its existence.
Mariana de Althaus has emerged as a leading playwright of contemporary Peru, admired by both Carlos Alegría and César de María. Ruido is considered to be the work which established de Althaus as a significant playwright within the constellation of Peruvian dramatists.
de Althaus, Mariana. 2006. Ruido (Noise). Manuscript available from CELCIT (number 333 in CELCIT catalogue):http://www.celcit.org.ar/publicaciones [Accessed August 2010] (Online Publication)
Luchting, Wolfgang A. 1981. ‘Getting Better: Perú, Latin American Theatre Review, 14, 2, 89-90
Luchting, Wolfgang. A. 1982. ‘The Usual and Some Better Shows: Peruvian Theatre in 1981’, Latin American Theatre Review, 15, 2, 59–63
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 24 February 2011.