Camille Claudel in Rio, the Carnival of Life

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Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was a French sculptress in the Paris of the fin de siècle, a woman confronting the male-oriented market of art, and Rodin’s insanely dedicated model, muse and lover.

Adriana Rabelo, Ramon Botelho and their team, after some years of touring Brazil with the play, make a personal and successful staging focusing on aspects of her personality and work such as her creativeness, the impulsivity of her emotions and the instability of her love for her mentor Rodin, which eventually sends her to a psychiatric hospital with mania persecution.

Camille’s monologue is enliven by constant leaps moving back and forth in time from different moments in her life to the lunatic asylum, where she looks back at the past to find in vain a sense for her life. Transitions are clearly and economically stated with an electroshock-like noise, a simple unbuttoning or tying up her hair, and changes in the gravity of expression, which experienced actress Adriana Rabelo masterfully achieve, switching in seconds from teenage happiness to young frustration to decay and mature desperation.

Special moments are her declaiming Rimbaud bare-breasted, the metatheatrical play with marionettes and voices to explain her relationship with Rodin and the inevitable and climactic implicit destruction of her own work.

Camille finally addresses and thanks the audience, for we are her last visitors to the asylum, where she is to end her days as a misunderstood artist.

Anton Chekhovich Chekhov’s ‘Two’ Sisters at Microteatro

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Mourning the dead and having them constantly in our memories is what makes us, among other things, different to animals. But when that peculiar human custom is just an excuse to not fully live your own life, it becomes a serious problem. That’s what Chekhov intelligently shows in his plays and what witty José Ignacio Tofé, playwright of Microteatro’s piece Las dos hermanas, parodied. We have two sisters, whose father disappeared in a snow storm months before and plan to keep the mourning until the body is found. The younger sister wants to marry, but the elder one, guardian of the archaic and atavistic practice, tries to slow down her plans forever and ever in a vicarious masochistic fashion. Because of the absurd of the plot and the hyperbolic performances, this is a comedy, and quite a funny one. Actress and scene director Silvia de Pé playing the sexually repressed and mystically sanctimonious sister, and fresh and full-of-life Ana Villa as the younger one, refer to each other with their complete unpronounceable patronymic-included names and keep a hilarious tension until the end, a foreseeable but liberating turn of the screw, exactly the opposite of the genius Russian playwright, who most times leaves the audience with a bitter emotional aftertaste, stripping characters of their concealing frustrated masks.

Corazza and his boys: psychodrama and massage at Conde Duque Cultural Center

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A pleasant and revealing but at the same time exhausting three-hour experience: to attend a class by reputed and controversial theatre director Juan Carlos Corazza. The bare-foot male and female students receive us emitting nasal and guttural sounds with the sight lost in the infinite, like sect members meditating in a never-ending introspection. Once the mystical music is over, 20 youngsters dreaming to become theater and movie stars come back to life and Corazza explains to the audience the meaning of this open exhibition of his school’s 4th year student’s training session.

They start performing Lorca’s Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) in pairs. He interrupts them, correcting here and there, questions them, massages their shoulders, puts a hand on I-don’t-know-which chakra, places someone from outside of the scene in front of a promising actress to make her feel something, so that she can project her own excitement into the scene and repeat it ad nauseam. Further on, with Chekhov’s Seagull, he will confront and embrace an actor for half a minute to extract tears from his touched face.

Corazza applies Stanislavsky’s method to his own style and personality, most times flooding the stage with his huge and eager-to-be-worshipped ego, but undoubtedly getting unprecedented performances from the student actors and actresses. He makes them explore the dramatic texts’ hermeneutical nuances using their own intern conflicts, as a form of reverse psychodrama. As an expected Argentinian theater man, Adler and Gestalt practical psychology mixed with Freudian psychoanalytical delirious ideas about the trauma theory enters his professorial speech, and, the same way homeopathic medicaments cure without having been empirically proven or Scientology blends subjective science and SF to save people’s souls in the Earth, he actually improves his students’ performing quality.

From the outside, someone could argue that he plays favorites, disregarding the average and unattractive ones and promoting nasty competition, as in a theater Spanish version of Fame, but, in the end, that’s the way the world works, isn’t it?

Chekhov and a histrionic bear at Centro Ruso

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Even Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s ‘minor’ plays entertain us and create a place for reflection, in the case of The Bear, around the themes of mourning and gender roles in love. Popova is a young widow who shuts herself away inside her house and reaffirms her intention of remaining ‘dead’ at home for the rest of her life after her husband’s death; seven months have passed and she dreams of military parades with handsome officers courting her. A creditor’s sudden arrival agitates the widow in unexpected and contradictory ways. Smirnov, played at Centro Ruso by a brilliantly histrionic  Germán Estebas from Teatro de Cámara Chejóv, is a rough experienced man, desperate for collecting what he is owed, but he suffers a not so unexpected metamorphoses: from a ‘bear’ (I guess you need to know Russian culture to take it as an insult) to a gallant suitor. The comical scenes implicitly give way to contesting society about mourning widows’ hypocritical old costumes (there are exceptions in literature, of course: Hamlet’s mother only waited one month to marry her brother-in-law), acting against their real desires; very praiseworthy, by the way, Elena Nikonorova-Petrova’s performance in Spanish and her showing of the character’s dissonance of words, acts and thoughts. The superb dialectic discussion between both characters, part of which I reproduce afterwards from Project Gutenberg, leads ‘misogyny’ to encounter a strong Russian ‘poetic creature’ and to become her slave, always in the context of a ‘chivalric’ romantic love structure.

 

 

SMIRNOV. [Teasing her] Silly and rude! I don’t know how to behave before women! Madam, in my time I’ve seen more women than you’ve seen sparrows! Three times I’ve fought duels on account of women. I’ve refused twelve women, and nine have refused me! Yes! There was a time when I played the fool, scented myself, used honeyed words, wore jewellery, made beautiful bows. I used to love, to suffer, to sigh at the moon, to get sour, to thaw, to freeze…. I used to love passionately, madly, every blessed way, devil take me; I used to chatter like a magpie about emancipation, and wasted half my wealth on tender feelings, but now—you must excuse me! You won’t get round me like that now! I’ve had enough! Black eyes, passionate eyes, ruby lips, dimpled cheeks, the moon, whispers, timid breathing—I wouldn’t give a brass farthing for the lot, madam! Present company always excepted, all women, great or little, are insincere, crooked, backbiters, envious, liars to the marrow of their bones, vain, trivial, merciless, unreasonable, and, as far as this is concerned [taps his forehead] excuse my outspokenness, a sparrow can give ten points to any philosopher in petticoats you like to name! You look at one of these poetic creatures: all muslin, an ethereal demi-goddess, you have a million transports of joy, and you look into her soul—and see a common crocodile! [He grips the back of a chair; the chair creaks and breaks] But the most disgusting thing of all is that this crocodile for some reason or other imagines that its chef d’oeuvre, its privilege and monopoly, is its tender feelings. Why, confound it, hang me on that nail feet upwards, if you like, but have you met a woman who can love anybody except a lapdog? When she’s in love, can she do anything but snivel and slobber? While a man is suffering and making sacrifices all her love expresses itself in her playing about with her scarf, and trying to hook him more firmly by the nose. You have the misfortune to be a woman, you know from yourself what is the nature of woman. Tell me truthfully, have you ever seen a woman who was sincere, faithful, and constant? You haven’t! Only freaks and old women are faithful and constant! You’ll meet a cat with a horn or a white woodcock sooner than a constant woman!

POPOVA. Then, according to you, who is faithful and constant in love? Is it the man?

SMIRNOV. Yes, the man!

POPOVA. The man! [Laughs bitterly] Men are faithful and constant in love! What an idea! [With heat] What right have you to talk like that? Men are faithful and constant! Since we are talking about it, I’ll tell you that of all the men I knew and know, the best was my late husband…. I loved him passionately with all my being, as only a young and imaginative woman can love, I gave him my youth, my happiness, my life, my fortune, I breathed in him, I worshipped him as if I were a heathen, and… and what then? This best of men shamelessly deceived me at every step! After his death I found in his desk a whole drawerful of love-letters, and when he was alive—it’s an awful thing to remember!—he used to leave me alone for weeks at a time, and make love to other women and betray me before my very eyes; he wasted my money, and made fun of my feelings…. And, in spite of all that, I loved him and was true to him. And not only that, but, now that he is dead, I am still true and constant to his memory. I have shut myself for ever within these four walls, and will wear these weeds to the very end….

Race, stage and video tapes in Brazilian ‘Miss Julie’

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As in a mirror house and playing with the audience’s senses, Brazilian theater company Vértice de Teatro mixes video and stage, characters and actors. Two sliding screens and a hand video camera depicts and interfere with the story jumping from one diegetic level to another, from video to performance, from Strindberg’s story rewritten for nowadays’ Brazil to the refusal of actors to keep on playing repulsive but cathartic roles for themselves. There are constant interferences of the camera on the stage, and actors saying – [Cut!] or addressing the audience in Spanish and making fun of themselves or crying. And behind all the technical apparatus and the dilemma of which of the video scenes were recorded and which ones were live, we find the racial issue, the story of the white rich girl infatuated with a black servant and perpetuating centuries of bondage, a connection à la brésilienne with the original story by the Swedish playwright, but with an improvised ending.

Lorca’s ghost meets Shakespeare at Conde Duque

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Lorca’s death left unfinished his manuscript Comedia sin título and now director Juan Carlos Corazza completes it with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was already part of Lorca’s metatheatrical exercise about the need for a theater that shows the real suffering of the people. With a sober and consequent mise-en-scène but including a cast of 10 actors and actresses, we witness complicity with the audience, informed of the process of both plays through the same actors who are to play one, two, three or four different roles. Galego, Andalusian and Argentinian accents plus repetitions of lines and the prompter’s intervention prevent us to succumb to the conventional catharsis and instead make us take out our critical attitude towards the presented facts. The play is a master class of what Bretchian distancing or Verfremdungseffect means: mixed thematics, alternate use of prose, verse and actors addressing the audience, lights all over the theater, anti-realistic scenography, reflection out loud about the play, use of humor in tragic scenes, inappropriate clothes…everything is suitable to break the theatrical illusion. My favorite actor, versatile Manuel Morón, also in one of the best Spanish movies in the 21st century, Smoking room.

Fighting a duel with Chekhov

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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was praised by many of his contemporary for including anti-heroic characters and for leaving his stories with a non-ending flavor. In The duel both characteristics are present and two main ideological positions confronted. Biologist Von Koren represents social Darwinism, the supremacy of the strong, XIXth century German philosophy of the will, and moral rigidness as a way to improve human race. Public officer Layévskii is more about laxity in life, aware of the imperfectness and the irrational in the human beings; he is a nihilist, disenchanted with society and recurring to literature to justify his pusillanimous and dissolute behavior. He trivializes moral ideals and Von Koren hates him for that.

Chekhov’s characters behave like and discuss about Hamlet, Anna Karenina, Fausto…They even fight a duel following the instructions they have read in Turgenev. They mix writers and characters in their fictional discourses themselves, and no one gets to know reading the novel what’s the real world and what’s the fictional one: maybe both are the same, cause literature drinks from “reality”, and “reality” is built through literature (or cinema or TV, think about The Sopranos, being imitated by the real Mafia).

Moscow Art Theater’s company came last week to Madrid to present a play based on the novella, using Chekhov’s text in a masterly literal way. The first act’s comical tone (provoking nonsensical laughs in the audience) and the main actor’s initial histrionics left me with some doubts, but in the second act, everything went back to the Chekhovian line, deep-thought and dramatic stories with a feeling of continuity. An original mise-en-scène composed by mooring lines around the stage, a boat in the middle, a table on the right, a bed on the left; music and lights correctly administered, and all actors’ impeccable performance, including attractive Natalia Rogozhkina. Поздравляю!

The “in-love” inside the Red Room at Microteatro por dinero

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Beware, teachers, of the Red Room, and of resented former students who decide to blame you for their failing lives and take revenge torturing you under a red bulb, as the Nazis used to do.

In Tokyo, in 2008, I heard from a colleague of a drop-out student who, after several years of low-income temporary jobs, went back to the Japanese university to stab to death in the restroom one of his former professors, the “guilty” of all his misery. At the University of Arkansas, a few years before I started my MA, a Ph.D candidate in the Comparative Literature department, after seeing his dissertation being turned down for the second and last time, locked himself at his thesis’ director’s office, shot this one three times and committed suicide afterwards.

Los enamorados, the couple in love.

First date: nervous faces and spasms, neutral and insipid conversations, the broke young man sweating at the sight of the prices on the menu.

First anniversary: fluid love story, passionate and romantic attitude, oath for eternal love.

Tenth anniversary: Tedious routine at its height, children as a motive for an argument, professional envy, likely infidelities.

Twentieth anniversary: Sour character, physical decay, companion love. Shall we dance?

Molière in Japan

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El otro día fui a ver Molière y por unas horas olvidé que me encontraba en el Japón del siglo XXI. Ni siquiera los subtítulos en japonés, que volaban a la velocidad de las ácidas frases en francés del dramaturgo, me recordaban mi lejanía en el tiempo y en el espacio respecto de los personajes de la obra. El teatro dentro del teatro que se mezcla con la vida es el leit motiv principal del logrado y colorido filme de Laurent Tirard.
La época, la Francia del siglo XVII; los personajes, una rancia aristocracia ocupada en pulir sus títulos y perseguir damiselas; Molière-Tartufo, un intruso entre los nobles que muestra sus bajezas pero también su humanidad. El mundo del teatro –o el gran teatro del mundo, como diría Calderón de la Barca, contemporáneo de Moliere- nos permite dibujar la realidad en un escenario y reírnos de nosotros mismos.

Molière is depicted in the movie as a successful but poor playwright whose intelligence and genius helps him to obtain the noblemen’s favour -including the king of France- as long as he makes them laugh. But at the same time, he is a tormented author forced to create “light” comical pieces when he actually aspires to write tragedies or “real theatre”. His spleen is only forgotten by an amount of amorous and hilarious adventures that feed his own literary repertoire. But when they are gone, the misery comes back to his mind. Eventually, his success will allow him to do as he pleases.

モリエールという映画を見に行った時に、17世紀の人物の早い会話を日本語の字幕で読み始めたと思うと、もう消えてしまった。しかし、フランスの劇作家の考え方と時代の価値観をよく理解出来る。モリエールさんは人間の理由を上手に見せてくれる。上流社会でも下層階級の人でも、生活の中で恋と夢を本能的に捜し求めている。しかし、家族と社会は前者二つを自由に選ばせない。人が成功と幸をつかむためには交渉しかない。

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Contemporary dance-theater performances in Japan are not as big as in Europe or America but still considerable.
This dance company, Dots, founded by an ex-student of some University of Arts in Kyoto, uses sounds -repeating tecno rhythms, classical or just meaningless voices- projected images –shadows, pictures on the watery walls- and organized chaotic movements to wrap the audience into a semiconscious dream. It succeeds, in occasions, like for example when all dancers get together and start a machine-like futuristic choreography; or when two of them performs the fusion of two bodies and souls into one; or when a seductive light and noise becomes a narcotic for a few individuals while some other try to retrieve them. But in some other occasions it’s just meaningless movements and dullness, and your mind runs away for some minutes from the dancers-actors to the beautiful –and cold, by the way- background, to your own thoughts.
No doubt this kind of art? dance? theatre? performance? is a different kind of language, very suggesting and open to many interpretations –as many as the number of people in the audience- but I prefer to attend more traditional ones with spoken intelligent language which not only makes you feel but also to think deeply, and a story-line that allows you some understanding and coherence.

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