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Stardust review at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh – ‘explores history and horror of cocaine trade’

Miguel Hernando Torres Umba in Stardust. Photo: Alex Brenner Miguel Hernando Torres Umba in Stardust. Photo: Alex Brenner
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For every gram of cocaine snorted on the UK’s streets, criminals profit, communities suffer, ecosystems are destroyed, and people die. That’s the driving message behind Stardust, Blackboard Theatre’s one-man show exploring the use and abuse of the white stuff.

It’s a patchwork piece of theatre. Written by Daniel Dingsdale, together with Colombian performer Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, it uses lecture, theatrical games, animation and movement to expose the real cost of the cocaine trade.

Umba whisks us through the history of the drug, from its origins in the rituals of native South American tribes, through its discovery and refinement by Europe and the USA, to its commodification and worldwide colonisation. We get a fun bit where an audience member has to bribe and bully his way to becoming a successful drug lord, and a thought-provoking tirade on how the cultural stigma of cocaine has been an albatross around Colombia’s neck.

It’s scrappy stuff, but always absorbing. Umba is a charming, cheerful and charismatic host, playfully firing shots at everyone from weekend warriors sniffing coke at parties, to Netflix, which glamourises the drug trade in its box-set Narcos. Cocaine, he makes clear, is not just Colombia’s problem. It’s everyone’s.

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Informative show using lecture, games, animation and movement to explore the history and horror of the cocaine trade