By Peter Murphy
BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian theatre company is touring the country with a new comedy playing on the public's growing fears that hosting the 2014 World Cup will be a disaster with unfinished stadiums and overwhelmed airports.
"The Cup is Ours" by Brasilia slapstick comedians "De 4 e melhor", portrays a chaotic tournament which starts late while finishing touches are put on stadiums and an opening ceremony botched by corrupt officials who have stolen the cash to pay for it.
"We are making these criticisms because it's obvious that there are a lot of things to deal with urgently. But if this Cup is to be a success, it will take a lot more than criticism," the play's director Flavio Nardelli told Reuters backstage.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke caused a diplomatic storm in March when he said Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to speed up preparations. Brazil refused to work with him before FIFA eventually patched up relations.
Despite earlier concerns about progress on new stadiums, most are now roughly on schedule, though costs are soaring. But transportation infrastructure, from airports to public transport and hotels, still look woefully inadequate for an expected 600,000 visitors.
The comedy group hopes to take the play to all 12 cities which will host games from the tournament.
In one sketch, soccer fans learn from the airport announcer after a half dozen gate changes, that their overbooked flight has been cancelled and they will be bussed to a game in Sao Paulo, a two-day journey, "for a rebooking fee of only 213 reais", about $100.
"A lot of people are telling us they can identify with these scenes. People are saying it's the comment you hear most at the airports today: ‘Imagine when it's the World Cup'," Nardelli said.
In other sketches, a fan from Brazil's soccer nemesis Argentina, is conned out of cash by a quick-thinking beggar and an American woman runs for safety from a flirt with broken English who misunderstands her words as welcoming his advances.
At the final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil faces Argentina. A shot fired from one of the dozens of shanty towns that sprawl across its hillsides, hits three-time World Player of the Year, Argentina's Lionel Messi, securing victory for the hosts.
A handful of audience members interviewed were confident preparations would fall into place and that Brazilians would resort to the culturally instilled 'jeitinho', or 'little way' to creatively dribble around difficulties.
"I think it will happen because it just has to. We will have to do something, I don't know what but we will have to do it," said Gustavo Tosto, an employee of the public airport operator as the audience shuffled out of the theater.