High Drama in Mexican Wrestling

Ten days in Mexico and it took till the last day to see one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.

It had high drama – real edge of your seat moments – action, emotion, comedy, spectacle. Brilliant storytelling with a constantly changing narrative – as soon as you thought it was going to go one way it surprised you and went in another direction. Even a steady supply of food and drink if you wanted it. The audience loved it, some had even come dressed as the characters!

What’s this brilliant play? Well, it wasn’t a play it was Mexican wrestling at Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

I remember some wrestling on the telly as kid – World of Sport after Tizwaz with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Never did much for me. But here in Mexico it’s more like a scripted piece of drama. There’s clear characters. The goodies – often in bright colours like super heroes and have names like The Chameleon and Blue Panther. They come on and everyone is on their side. The baddies – often in black leather and studs with long hair – where wrestling meets heavy metal. They look evil. They’ve got great names like Disturbia (my favourite) and The Commandante (female, built like a brick shithouse – terrifying) and Euforia (who looked like the playwright Simon Stephens.) There’s a clear narrative and the drama builds through the night. The climax was a battle between the reigning champion Ultimo Guerrero – who was loved by the crowd but past his best – versus Rush – a musclebound poser with a Kevin Keegan perm circa 1982. It was almost Shakespearian – maybe I am getting a little carried away now – the young pretender taking on the wise old king. Of course, Guerrero won the day but only after being constantly knocked back and having to call on the crowd to give him the strength to win one last battle. There was also a moment with a furry blue dwarf which was like something out of a David Lynch film but the less said about the better …

It was the perfect end to what had been a particularly intense week as Elyse Dodgson, Jeremy Herrin and I returned to Mexico City for the second phase of our workshop between the Royal Court and Centro Cultural Helenico. All thirteen writers had written first drafts and we did a cold reading of each one – which was hardcore. Partly for the writer, as it’s so exposing, but also for the rest of us – listening to five plays back to back each day can be particularly draining. But we did great work later in the week, especially with my favourite part of the workshops – the one to one chats with the writer about their plays. By now you’ve got to know a writer, their work and what they’re trying to do. You both grapple with the play together and try and find a clear way through to the second draft. We got to a really exciting place with each writer I feel and I can’t wait to read the next drafts.

It was great returning for the second phase. Seeing familiar faces, places – we should get a reward card for the amazing fish restaurant Contramar – and discovering more to beautiful Mexico City – Diego Rivera’s house, a new park to run in, a brilliant Cuban bar and of course Arena Mexico. Next time I’m going to start the trip at Arena Mexico taking all the writers – there’s much we can learn – and I’ve got my own wrestling mask to wear now too…