Mangoes From the Valley, created by Aryana Mohammed and produced by Junebug Productions, is a heartbreaking portrait of Maria (Renee King), a Venezuelan woman in Trinidad, forced into sex work by circumstance.
Please note that this review discusses content (sexual assault, violence) that may be triggering to some readers.
The production gives the audience a brief introduction to this topic. The political climate in Venezuela has left many without enough food and living in poverty. Because of this, many people have chosen to move to Trinidad and Tobago. In 2019, there were an estimated 40,000 Venezuelans living on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. While some are able to immigrate legally, many make the dangerous trip illegally by boat.
However, the job opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago prove scarce for many, especially for women and undocumented people. And many women are forced to turn to sex work to provide for themselves and their families back home.
In only 21 minutes, Mangoes From the Valley viscerally and tragically gives us a window into Maria’s life as a sex worker. There is no dialogue save for a line at the beginning and end, and the entire production takes place in one room. The woman is sexually assaulted by a client, and the audience watches as the scene and the aftermath unfold.
Without speaking, King gives a brilliant and gut-wrenching performance. The raging emotions are palpable and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The production is an unsettling and necessary reminder of the many women in Maria’s situation.
Without dialogue, the soundscape of the production is notable (vocals & sound production by Eve Hamel-Smith). Drumming intensifies the mood as Maria dresses to meet her client. King’s own cries punctuate the assault. Maria’s audible heartbeat later echoes the drumming as the scene spirals into panic. Finally, haunting Venezuelan music fills some of the space (maracas and guitar by Romario Bruce Salina).
The videography (Sean Edghill and Nigel Thompson) compliments the production perfectly. The camera artfully pans over Maria’s body, making the audience witness to her assault and her grief.
The entire production is completely absorbing, from the acting to the music to the camerawork. Mangoes From the Valley is an exceptional additional to Fringe this year and I highly recommend this production with a trigger warning.
- Mangoes From the Valley is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
- Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
- Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
- Accessibility notes:
- On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
- Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
- Content Warning: (Trigger Warning) sexual assault, violence
Photo of Renee King by Danielle Lewis