Tuesday, November 29

‘Oasis of impunity’, the repressive violence of a State in tension

This Sunday the Ibero-American Festival of Cádiz closed with this long-awaited work by Chilean Marcos Layera and his company La Re-Sentida. A piece where the company turns towards a physical theater but without abandoning the ideological and political burden that is a hallmark of the Chilean collective. A work that questions and attacks the monopoly of violence on the part of the State, that denounces the schizophrenia of democratic societies that coexist with true repressive apparatuses while they do not stop celebrating their regime of freedoms. A work that comes after the brutal repression of the 2019 and 2020 protests in Chile.

oasis of impunity It premiered in Spain a week ago at the Central Theater in Seville, and in March and April it will be respectively at the Teatre Lliure and the María Guerrero Theater of the Centro Dramático Nacional. Although this information may not seem important in this case it is. The history of this Chilean company that Layera founded in 2008 is also that of Latin American theater and its relationship with Europe. La Re-Sentida has undergone a dazzling rise since it premiered in 2014 the imagination of the future at the Chilean festival Santiago a Mil and the programmers of the ‘A’ circuits in Europe sponsored the company.

With that work in which La Re-Sentida without fuss and with a punk attitude revisits the figure of Allende, they went to the Avignon Festival and the Berlin Schaubühne. Allende wanders around the stage exhausted, he doesn’t understand the technocrats who tell him to make his speech with a reggaeton background and with two blond children. A child comes on stage, he is a poor child, real, the company asks for money to pay for the kid’s career, he wants to be a doctor. A spectator refuses laughing, at that moment a naked dancer does a dance for him and tells him crying that if necessary she will masturbate him so that he puts his hand in his pocket and coaxes. The woman next to the spectator gets angry, gets up, pushes the dancer and leaves the theater. Theater of shock and confrontation, theater that seeks to change the world, battle with structures, flee from bourgeois theater and indifference.

A theater in struggle

The last work of La Re-Sentida that was seen in Spain was landscapes not to color, Applause delivered for more than ten minutes at the Teatre Lliure, performances at the Autumn Festival in Madrid, the Gran Teatro Falla de Cádiz up and shouting… The play, which was performed by Chilean teenagers, recounted the constant humiliation of being a woman in That country. After fieldwork in the communes of Santiago and collecting hundreds of testimonies, La Re-Sentida brought to the stage the situation of Chilean women and, more specifically, of adolescent girls who were confronted for the first time with a patriarchal system that was still weighed down by years of fascism and staunch Catholicism. Post-dramatic theater where the character is blurred in pursuit of the interpreter and his capacity for truthfulness, theater-testimony and politics where these women, who, in addition to being minors, are doubly silenced, battle and fight to make themselves heard. Chile was in a fight and it showed.

Just as he is touring Spain, on October 18, 2019, Chile explodes. The price of the subway ticket rises, an indignant protest is formed and from one day to the next everything is in question. Chile would never be the same again. The functions of Landscape not to color they end up in pure exasperated rallies of adolescent girls, fists are raised in Spanish theaters. Chile suffers and Spain is moved.

From those functions until today, many things have happened in La Re-Sentida, in Chile and in the world. The fight in the streets of Chile, the subsequent pandemic and what it meant to stop activism in that country, the fall of President Sebastián Piñera, the exciting rise to power of Gabriel Boric, and the failure of the constitutional plebiscite last September in the one that this work cannot, either, stop looking at. It is on that journey that oasis of impunity it is created. Layera manages to ensure that the production is fully assumed by European entities, but working from Chile. A large laboratory is being carried out, attended by more than 500 people in Chile, Layera has in mind all the bruised, injured, blinded bodies of the revolts in his country, he wants to investigate “the systemic conditions and the individual motives of violent relations between a State and its citizens”. From the workshop arise the materials of the work and part of the performers of the work.

Automata vs Citizens

The play begins in a museum, a uniformed security guard swarms the stage, a large painting with a ghost presides over the space. Perhaps Pinochet. The heroes have become ghosts, we enter a symbolic, metaphorical space that dresses up as a nightmare. The guard moves like an automaton, in a syncopated way, pseudorobotized, alienated, without being the owner of his own actions. This will be the movement that he will govern throughout the work. This is how scenes will take place where these beings multiply in number, they have pointed ears, they seem to learn to pull each other’s hair, to drown, to immobilize. They don’t wear uniforms, nothing identifies them with the pacos, What do they call the Chilean police? The work seems to follow a different path to the other great European piece on the repressive bodies of the State, bros, of the Italian Romeo Castellucci. If there the realism in clothing, props (the policemen carried batons and pistols) and in the acts of torture and violence was manifest, Layera seems to opt for a different aesthetic. More of a horror movie, as if it were postmodern nosferatus. Nosferatus that display choreographies close to dance.

And perhaps this is one of the problems of the show. The choreographies do not stop being illustrative, closed in a limited movement code that after more than an hour does not give for more. Illustrative is the scene where we see some posh, Chilean upper class, with sweaters around their necks, taking that robotic movement to the extreme while they smear themselves and drink ketchup like crazy. The meaning of the scene is clear, the metaphor is even broad brush. The problem is that, although in this work we try to work with the poetics of the body, we try to build through the body, the work that is done with it is flat. I remembered this scene, by confrontation, with another of the Argentine creator Rodrigo García, The story of Ronald, the McDonald’s clown, a scene where Ruben Ametller was smeared with milk and other fast food substances. In it, García worked the body as matter and not as an instrument. Layera, on the other hand, works the body to expose a thesis and also when they smear themselves with ketchup it is done in a metaphorical way, nothing falls, nothing dirty. This will happen in many of the scenes of this work where, although Layera has left aside the text to undertake a dramaturgy from the body, the result is more illustrative than poetic.

But Layera does not let the work fall into this flat repetition and brings out the resources of his theater in the last stretch. A theater that challenges the spectator and that in this production also takes the bill of the great European productions. Scenes of a citizen converted into Christ, tortured by these automatons that are clearly protected in the aesthetics of The disasters of war by Francisco de Goya, or the Castellucci-style use of a transparent cubicle where a society locked in its own democratic party is symbolized, make the show gain in spectacularity and strength. Gone are the texts of La Re-Sentida, the word that attacks the public’s political conscience, which rally many times. Layera is now sheltered in a theater of the image that is too reminiscent of the invoice of the European avant-garde theater.

The play ends in a scene that perfectly sums up this Chilean’s conception of theater. A woman is brought the coffin of her dead son, she cries, screams, breaks the coffin with her fists, inside her instead of the body of her son, her mother finds sand. The automatons take her mother, torture her, harass her and take her to the stalls, leaving her naked and dead in one of the seats free of hers. She will stay there until the last spectator leaves. The scene is Manichaean, easy, thick. The actress plays justito the pain of a mother before the death of her son. But at the same time, that actress, abandoned there in the stalls, naked, massacred, inert, while the work continues, is of overwhelming force.

This assembly opens several reflections. The new pro-European direction of La Re-Sentida and how, although Layera has managed to continue researching and producing in Chile with money that comes from abroad, his theater is made by and for a circuit that has little to do with the Latin American cone. It also opens the reflection of the spectacular in the language of body politics. “A body politic must be anti-spectacular”, a theoretician reflected after the premiere while a large part of the participants and the public of this festival celebrated the victory of Lula da Silva in the Brazilian elections and an edition that was coming to an end. And it also opens the question of the curatorships of European festivals that look at Latin America, the danger of admitting without filters an existing circuit between northern Europe and America that is very colonizing.