Festival de Curitiba is a theatre convention that happens over here, there are lots of plays for 10 days straight and i just jumped on, i just did a theatre marathon. In short:
- What i liked the most: “O Banho”, “Arapucaia”, “Escaparate”
- The ratio of good plays to bad plays: surprisingly high, as in few sucked
- Total number of plays i went to: 23!!
…which stands for “The Bath“, by Companhia do Abração. The play happens in a square stage, with the audience sitting in 4 rows of 6 seats at each side. No more than 24 people can watch it each time. Crazy, uh? Behind you there’s a curtain of plastic bags filled with water, and during the play the actors walk there and whisper and sing and even blow behind your back, it’s extremely sensual and entrancing.
And i must say: it was one of the most beautiful things i ever saw in my life. One of those things that make you feel grateful to be alive.
It is a spectacle of incredible humbleness and grace. It talks about accepting life as it is, and being happy about it, and seeing how beautiful it is even when we hurt. It talks about the simple things, about the true things. It talks about us, i think, about being a person inside this world-like-a-river that flows and flows and sometimes seem so purposeless and then there are those precious few times when you can be alone with yourself and just pause a little and savour the few drops of fresh water, the few really meaningful things in life. Like friends. Like this play.
I have no words. Wonderful.
How can they create such beauty with only one word?:
Since there where so many plays at the same time (like in, after my marathon i did not certainly watch even 5% of everything) it so happened that there were two different adaptations of at least two plays: “O Diário de um Louco” (by Gogol) and “Mahagonny” (by Brecht). I went to all them 4! The idea was to inquire such imponderable questions as — is it the Director or the Playwright the main artist behind a play? — is it the style or the story that impacts us more? — is a message the same when presented in a different form? — is it the end that justifies the play or is it the development?
The first thing is that, using the same text does probably create some correlation between two plays, likely because two directors that get interested by the same text probably do have more in common than two random directors, the voice that stands out of two adaptations of the same play are very, very different. The same phrase spoken by two different actors in two different contexts can have worlds between them.
It’s also interesting to see the importance of styles. In this particular example one play used very “realistic” and “spetaculous” costumes and makeup, and the other used masks and patchwork clothes. You can’t usually say what is the effect of a given style, but you can’t deny also that it changes things.
Does knowing how a given play will end change how much you will like it or not? For example “Diary of a Madman” is very much about the slow progression towards madness, so in many ways it all just makes sense when you finally observe madness taking shape. Curiously, i did like the first adaptation i saw much more than the second. I would say that the actor was much better, but maybe having already seen how things work out was part of it.
beyond the stage
Many of the plays i went to did happen outside the usual audience-stage-backstage theatre. Some were on the street, some even tried to defy those notions. For example, Erro Grupo‘s “Escaparate” play begins with the projection of a computer screen on the wall of a building where a girl is talking on skype, and then the guy to whom she is talking to appears, and their talk is actually redirected to loudspeakers, very very interesting. Then they begin walking around, the audience actually has to go after them, there are moments when they are talking through the glass of a clothes shop nearby.
I think it is brilliant. I do not know what they accomplish with it, but it definitely makes the whole space around them very plastic and meaningful.
In another play (“Los Juegos Provechosos”), an actress comes down from a building through abseiling. Again, i think those efforts do not have a complete, understandable, concrete meaning. I think that they have too big a risk of not being saying nothing. Of being empty. So, yes, i love them but i think they must be articulated into bigger structures. Do not change the formats just to shock the audience, create meaning with that.
Obviously one of the goals of it is indeed shocking the audience out of their passive role, out of being a “generic spectator without a say in what’s going on”. But that is also misleading, for the actors do have a whole structure of behaviours and happenings prepared, so their freedom in doing things and participating is enormously bigger than the guy who’s watching.
I remember a choreography where the dancers would call the people on the audience to the stage, only with hand signals, and i guess it was only supposed to be a commentary about the division, but then one guy actually went up to the stage, and the dancers didn’t know what to do. On the other day, there was a talk with the choreographer who was also a dancer, and he said that the dancers had a responsibility to be meaningful up there, and if the guy would go up he had to assume the same responsibility and not depend on them making his appearance work. I kind of thought he had a point, but that it was also coward of him to just shrug it off like that.
Anyway, even plays with pretty much traditional structures tried to break the audience/stage divide. For example, a play about Bukowski distributed some beers to the audience. Or in my beloved “O Banho” the actors would joke about throwing water in the spectators. There was even a play where the actors said that “this is not an interactive play, so you can sit closer”!
I guess it says a lot about not only our contemporary society, but about what is the official reading you have to have about it. I mean, you are supposed to think that the barrier between stage/audience is a bad thing, that you must either ignore it or try to breach it, that you can’t acknowledge it and reinforce it.
Which brings me to another thing i noticed with some pleasure. There was a big number of plays that dealt with sociological issues, that intended to discuss things like Spectacle Society, or Consumerism, or Benjamin, or whatever. Obviously i did tend to go to those much more than your run-of-the-mill comedy about relationship misunderstanding, but either way.
I even came across a paper about theatre and social movements. Cool.
I went to “A Cabra”, one of the run-of-the-mill comedies, just to see Zé Wilker live, and he is a monster, he is unbelievably good, but i think it does a disservice to the play, since the other actors at some points seemed to have relegated themselves to “supporting cast” — not being as bright as they could have been just because, you know, Zé Wilker is the star and he must shine. And also the play seemed to be libertarian (as in the end they show how everyone’s worry was not about love or the happiness of the couple, but just about “what other people would say”) but in a way that no one was likely to understand, as in it was libertarian without being clear about it. I had mixed feelings.
There was a spectacle based on Dostoievski, “Rato do Subsolo, ou o ódio impotente”, which i loved, showed how you do not have to be revolutionary to be wonderful.
One of those things that impressed me a lot as a designer was an adaptation of Becket where the actress begins to pick purses of all kinds and shapes and sizes, so that pretty soon she is almost tied up with them. It was beautifully tied with the play. In a given moment she says that “if she wasn’t so tied up i would just fly away”… Gives you lot’s to think.
And the Heineken bar at Memorial de Curitiba did rule insanely.