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THE LAST EMPEROR OF MEXICO

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Theatre

Venue:The Counting House, 38 West Nicolson Street Edinburgh EH8 9DD
Phone: 0131 667 7533
Links: Click Here for venue details, Click here for map
Ticket Prices: Free  
Room: The Lounge
AUG 3-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-27 at 00:15 (60 min)
 
Show Image

A historical comedy exploring the life of Maximilian I, the last emperor of Mexico. Maximilian I has recently been declared the Emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III. But, his administration soon comes under attack by the revolutionary Benito Juarez. Maximilian is confronted with a great dilemma – to shave his beard or die by firing squad. ('A strikingly original writer and performer' - The Scotsman).


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News and Reviews for this Show

March 16, 2017 Broad Street Review
A meaty role
More and more, it’s Fringe all year round, not just for a few weeks in September. The Fringe do-it-yourself aesthetic, as well as its unconventional storytelling techniques, performance lengths and times, and theater spaces are all part of the fun of Chris Davis’s new one-man show, The Last Emperor of Mexico.


The man, his mission, and his meats. (Photo courtesy of Chris Davis)
Historical footnote

A sequel of sorts to Davis's 2016 Juan-Winfield Escutia-Scott, or the Mexican-American War, a Butcher's Play, Davis performs this 45-minute history himself, playing the title character, an Austrian prince tapped by Napoleon III to become the short-lived Second Empire of Mexico’s only Emperor, Maximilian I, in 1864. Davis drafts audience members to play the character’s mother and wife, creating their conversations in modern language and attitudes. His talk with Napoleon about the job is priceless: Two guys joking in a bar about a ridiculous opportunity.

This makes historical footnote Maximilian I a relatable guy. Duped into thinking the Mexican people want him to rule, Maximilian takes over at age 31, deposing elected president Benito Juarez. Davis dons a red-and-gold cape, gives his wife a tiara, and reveals how this unlikely leader, who spoke five languages, made progressive changes such as abolishing child labor and reducing the work week’s customary 80 hours.

The history is all true, Davis assured me after the show, and there’s more than he could include in his freewheeling script. He answered questions while serving the audience authentic Mexican food (included in the ticket price).

Davis does it all

When I arrived at Los Amigos, a little corner deli/butcher shop in the heart of the Italian Market on Ninth Street (the same deli that hosted his earlier Mexico-themed show), Davis wore his blue double-breasted officer’s coat with tails and set props around the shop. As the audience arrived – 16 of us, busting the planned capacity by four – he greeted each party, explained the menu (tamales, quesadillas, soda), took orders, and asked us to provide revolutionary nicknames to be used later in the show. When extra seats were needed, he broke out more folding chairs, explaining that he'd brought them from home.

When producing theater almost anywhere, you need to invest in some chairs.

With a variety of techniques – narration, scenes played with audience members as characters, direct address as Maximilian, brief readings of historical documents – the last emperor’s fascinating story unfolds. Director Mary Tuomanen, Davis’s collaborator on his fine One-Man Apocalypse Now, Bortle 8, and other solo works, helps Davis build to its inevitable end this often-hilarious story about a man so proud of his lush beard that he refused to shave to save his life. He has a winking quality, assuring us that history is fascinating and fun, without drawing conclusions or highlighting parallels to today’s politics (though there are opportunities) – beyond a quick reference to our president’s trademark red baseball cap.

When this engaging play ends, less than an hour after its 6:30pm start, Davis serves Los Amigos’s treats (also available for purchase) and the little shop becomes a cozy party. Other than occurring at Los Amigos, which Davis helps with a cut of the box office and publicity (I’ll be going back for more tamales!), The Last Emperor of Mexico could play living rooms, art galleries, classrooms, or any other space. A few years ago, we would only have seen such a show in the Fringe. Now, theater is happening everywhere, at any time and any length. We're evolving.

 Click Here

February 23, 2017  Broad Street Review
A meaty role
More and more, it’s Fringe all year round, not just for a few weeks in September. The Fringe do-it-yourself aesthetic, as well as its unconventional storytelling techniques, performance lengths and times, and theater spaces are all part of the fun of Chris Davis’s new one-man show, The Last Emperor of Mexico.


The man, his mission, and his meats. (Photo courtesy of Chris Davis)
Historical footnote

A sequel of sorts to Davis's 2016 Juan-Winfield Escutia-Scott, or the Mexican-American War, a Butcher's Play, Davis performs this 45-minute history himself, playing the title character, an Austrian prince tapped by Napoleon III to become the short-lived Second Empire of Mexico’s only Emperor, Maximilian I, in 1864. Davis drafts audience members to play the character’s mother and wife, creating their conversations in modern language and attitudes. His talk with Napoleon about the job is priceless: Two guys joking in a bar about a ridiculous opportunity.

This makes historical footnote Maximilian I a relatable guy. Duped into thinking the Mexican people want him to rule, Maximilian takes over at age 31, deposing elected president Benito Juarez. Davis dons a red-and-gold cape, gives his wife a tiara, and reveals how this unlikely leader, who spoke five languages, made progressive changes such as abolishing child labor and reducing the work week’s customary 80 hours.

The history is all true, Davis assured me after the show, and there’s more than he could include in his freewheeling script. He answered questions while serving the audience authentic Mexican food (included in the ticket price).

Davis does it all

When I arrived at Los Amigos, a little corner deli/butcher shop in the heart of the Italian Market on Ninth Street (the same deli that hosted his earlier Mexico-themed show), Davis wore his blue double-breasted officer’s coat with tails and set props around the shop. As the audience arrived – 16 of us, busting the planned capacity by four – he greeted each party, explained the menu (tamales, quesadillas, soda), took orders, and asked us to provide revolutionary nicknames to be used later in the show. When extra seats were needed, he broke out more folding chairs, explaining that he'd brought them from home.

When producing theater almost anywhere, you need to invest in some chairs.

With a variety of techniques – narration, scenes played with audience members as characters, direct address as Maximilian, brief readings of historical documents – the last emperor’s fascinating story unfolds. Director Mary Tuomanen, Davis’s collaborator on his fine One-Man Apocalypse Now, Bortle 8, and other solo works, helps Davis build to its inevitable end this often-hilarious story about a man so proud of his lush beard that he refused to shave to save his life. He has a winking quality, assuring us that history is fascinating and fun, without drawing conclusions or highlighting parallels to today’s politics (though there are opportunities) – beyond a quick reference to our president’s trademark red baseball cap.

When this engaging play ends, less than an hour after its 6:30pm start, Davis serves Los Amigos’s treats (also available for purchase) and the little shop becomes a cozy party. Other than occurring at Los Amigos, which Davis helps with a cut of the box office and publicity (I’ll be going back for more tamales!), The Last Emperor of Mexico could play living rooms, art galleries, classrooms, or any other space. A few years ago, we would only have seen such a show in the Fringe. Now, theater is happening everywhere, at any time and any length. We're evolving. Click Here

February 22, 2017 NewsWorks
Mexican history comes to life at Italian Market butcher
A Philadelphia writer and actor will perform a one-man play about the last emperor of Mexico, in a Mexican butcher shop.

It's a continuation of a previous play in the same butcher shop last year, about the Mexican-American War of 1846, which proved to be good for business.

Chris Davis performed all the parts of that play in Los Amigos Meat Market, on 9th Street in the Italian Market, using the meat case and the soda cooler as props. At a brisk 15 minutes, it was a scrappy, goofy production that ended with fresh tamales for everyone.

"My business went better," said owner Raul Aguilar. "People talk on Yelp, all the websites and Facebook. They talk about the show and ask about the food."

Aguilar, who has owned the butcher shop since 2007, is in a crowded field of butchers on 9th street, some of which have been established for many generations. He is trying to shift his business from selling cuts of meat to prepared foods unique to Mexican culinary tradition, like chorizo sausage, marinated carne asada, and tamales.

Plays about Mexican history have been a shot in the arm. His tamales now outsell his raw meat. He is adding tacos and sandwiches to the menu, giving more floor space over to tables and chairs for eating in.

This year, Aguilar and Davis doubled down with a play three times longer - 45 minutes - for a run twice as long - two weeks. Davis plays Maximilion I, an Austrian installed as emperor of Mexico in 1864 by the emperor of France, Napoleon III.

Maximilion was immediately disliked by Mexican liberals loyal to deposed President Benito Juarez, who did not want a foreign emperor forced upon them.

"Emperors are this thing that reoccur constantly. It goes back thousands of years. They rise," said Davis. "It asks questions, what is a leader? What do leaders do? What do we do when we discover they are petulant children, like my Emperor Maximilion, who just wants people to like him? That's all he wants. But he doesn't get that."

Davis wrote the script during the ascendency of President Donald Trump, who has been openly hostile to Mexican immigrants and proposed a controversial wall against Mexico.

Davis makes subtle reference to President Trump in the play - at one point wearing a red hat that reads “Has Mexico Mejor Otra Vez” (Make Mexico Great Again) - but said this is solely the story of Maximilion, whose life was a complex narrative of privilege, ambition, and compassion, and ultimately sacrifice.

After three years Napoleon III pulled French troops out of the country, leaving Maximilion's vulnerable Mexican republicans loyal to Juarez. He was imprisoned and executed by firing squad. His final words, in Spanish, called for Mexico's independence.

Few people in America recognize the name, but in Mexico Maximilion is a well-known figure who outlawed child labor and was a champion of the poor. He also was a monarch who refused a democratic process.

"He's a hero, in a sense, and at the same time he represents colonialism," said Davis. Click Here

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