IF YOU'RE anything like me, you spend far too much time in card shops, looking at all the funnies.  I love those which feature cartoons from The New Yorker and the like. My favourite shows a frustrated dog owner shouting at his French Poodle, having thrown the obligatory ball for the poor mutt to retrieve, “Never mind ‘Pourquoi’, just get it!” Brilliant – funny on a simple level, but also asking us to question those things which we just take for granted.

Into The Melting Pot at The Haymarket in Basingstoke told the story of Blanca, a Jewish lady in Seville in 1492, as she faces deportation by the Spanish Inquisition as part of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella’s purge of non-Catholic “heretics”.  

Played with passion and sensitivity by Clara Perez, Blanca channels Jewish, Christian and Moslem voices from her Spanish community to tell of her fears and feelings of loss and victimisation as she prepares to face an uncertain future, perhaps even no future at all. Using dialogue interspersed with traditional Spanish and Sephardic Jewish music performed by The Telling, we are slowly drawn into a dark and claustrophobic world of nihilism, ethnic cleansing and racial injustice that is at once troubling and touching.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Into The Melting Pot came to The HaymarketWith many of the lyrics to the music being performed in medieval Spanish and Hebrew, I suspect that few in the audience could truly understand the exact meaning of what was being said. Add to that a certain seamlessness in Blanca’s transitions from voicing her own thoughts to voicing those of her racially-diverse friends and community, and the piece can be rather challenging to follow. But once you accept this and just let your mind “go with the flow”, the overall feel and message is easily understood and the performance enjoyed.

Of course, you don’t need me to point out the obvious parallels with both modern conflicts and all the injustices that have occurred between 1492 and now, but the play can’t help but make you wonder at man’s unceasing inhumanity to man. 

In its format and intensity, then, Into The Melting Pot is a touching and ingenious telling of a story as old as time. I learnt much of interest from it but, like the French Poodle questioning the reason for his owner’s entreaty to fetch the ball, it didn’t – perhaps couldn’t – answer the question “Pourquoi?”