Gabriel Calderón decided to burn the ships, cling to the Borgesian mechanism of imagining the burning of the Library of Alexandria as the Argentine did one day. “The idea that Joyce’s Ulysses no longer exists is liberating, I wonder how we could write from there,” explained this Uruguayan director and playwright who came to the Golden Age nature reserve, the Almagro Festival, to premiere Constant.
The Almagro Festival celebrates Uruguay Day with performances by Jorge Drexler and Luciano Supervielle
This production revolves around the famous work of Spanish theater the constant prince, Calderón de la Barca’s “famous comedy”, loved by Goethe’s Weimar Theater in the 19th century, renovating 20th century European theater at the hands of Meyerhold’s biomechanics or Grotowski’s poor theatre. Pure tradition and pinnacle of European theatre. Constant, although it includes the main themes of the Spaniard’s work –free will, justice and sacrifice–, it leaves behind Calderon’s text, verse and speech to turn the work around like a sock. Thus a comedy resurfaces I will not go, police, in which nothing is what it seems and that dives with brio and depth into the role of the individual in the face of State repression. A true tour de force where Calderón continues to review with an acid eye the concept of historical memory of his country.
Poor and expensive opening
This premiere came a day after the opening of the Almagro Festival. High-flying inauguration. High political flight, presence of the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, and the President of Castilla-La Mancha, Emilio García-Page, to present Lluis Pascual with the Corral de Comedias Award.
High institutional flights, the minister’s commitment to finance the expansion of the Almagro National Theater Museum, and the presence of high-ranking personalities from the Republic of Uruguay, which this year is the guest country. And high acting flights, the festival opened with three greats of the scene in the main space of the festival, the San Juan Hospital, headquarters of the National Classical Theater Company in Almagro (CNTC): Nuria Espert, Adriana Ozores and Carlos Hipólito . The work: Marsillach is me, a tribute to the figure of Adolfo Marsillach on the twentieth anniversary of his death directed, and also performed, by the director of the CNTC, Lluis Homar. But those were all the flights. Theater, very little.
The director of the festival, Ignacio García, the day after the premiere, could not have been more forceful at a press conference when he presented the functions of the weekend with a resounding: “The festival begins today”. Sentence that perfectly illustrates the growing gap between the leadership of the CNTC and the Almagro Festival. Far is the will of Adolfo Marsillach himself, who founded the CNTC in 1985, that Almagro should be the Spanish Stradford, the English city that is the headquarters and true laboratory of the Royal Shakespeare Company. And far is the tradition of the CNTC opening the festival with a true production where its director, in some way, makes an artistic manifesto of his vision of our Golden Age.
Before a full theater, the CNTC did not show a production, but a “semi staged”, a theatrical reading around Marsillach’s writings, especially from his intelligent and hilarious memoirs, so far so close. A logical proposal for a smaller space but disproportionate as it was presented as the production with which the CNTC inaugurated the most important Spanish classical theater event in the world. The work will only see the two representations in Almagro. Its cost has been ninety-two thousand euros for production and forty-eight thousand euros destined to make its exhibition possible. A total of one hundred and forty thousand euros.
Despite the good work of the actors, the function did not go beyond being a reading that even surprised with a directing of actors that left an already very old Nuria Espert incomprehensibly unprotected (perhaps one of the last times that she can be seen on stage) and decided to leave in Blanca Marsillach’s hands the parts where they tried to reflect the subtle and somewhat dandy humor of Marsillach. Something, if not reckless, somewhat contradictory. A production that was in expensive compadreo and that the public responded with a subdued applause.
After the fiasco, the weekend has been dominated by the Uruguayan presence at the festival. In Uruguay they welcomed Margarita Xirgu and José Estruch after the Civil War, right in the theater that Gabriel Calderón directs today, the Solís Theater in Montevideo, headquarters of the National Comedy of Uruguay. There the Xirgu planted the seed of classical Spanish theater with a first production of Celestine in 1949. José Estruch worked there with the cast of the National Comedy to Lope de Vega, Lope de Rueda, Valle or Bergamín. Today, in the Uruguayan theater there is nothing left of that, “repertory theater and theater in verse in Uruguay is non-existent today, that musculature has been lost,” Gabriel Calderón explains to this newspaper.
Classical theater in Spanish has disappeared in Uruguay. The four assemblies that arrive at Almagro are an exception motivated by a public contest. Projects that have been carried out because there was an invitation from the Spanish festival. Among them will be the historic Teatro Galpón de Atahualpa Del Cioppo, which will bring a free version on the daughter of the air of Calderón de la Barca, which can be seen on July 18. This weekend apart from Constanta musical version of The life is dream by the company La Calderona, from Chile, and a work on Góngora by Teatro del Umbral, Gongora was here.
But all eyes were focused on Gabriel Calderon’s montage. Well known in our country for works such as Ex- that the actors burst and his award-winning work Story of a Boar or something by Ricardo which two years ago earned Joan Carrreras the Max Award for best actor. Calderón is above all a playwright, although in recent years he has been directing more and more frequently. His writing is intelligent and free, full of plots and genres, devoted to comedy and a theater of endless layers of meaning, layers that contradict and converse, tending on many occasions to arguments that at first seem nonsense but that go away. revealing as hidden faces of our past and our present.
Calderón is a playwright who has found a homonymous twin for this project on the other side of the Andes Mountains, the Chilean Guillermo Calderón. Three cauldrons to burn past and rebuild on the ashes. And two current pilots who, as if they were Borges and Bioy Casares, but current and fed up with digested postmodernity, would like to build the future of an agile theater but with depth charges, a theater based on the actor and on dramaturgies centered on the text.
The beginning of the work is surprising, in a geometric space that represents a room with views of the sea in Montevideo, where the action takes place. In the room, a bed. Under the bed, written the word torture. In a vertiginous scene we find a man who wants to denounce the innkeeper upon discovering the word torture on the networks, complains of having bad dreams, of being accused of having slept in a bed with some taboo words in Uruguay, which designate a close reality, an open wound, but at the same time also a word that has been institutionalized, deformed.
From then on, impossible stories happen in the work around that bed, arguments that seem to be the fruit of the mind of a scientist entangled in the probabilities of string theory. No plot, no possibility is true, neither that of the social democrats, nor that of the art managers, nor that of the workers, perhaps only that of the police. The police in this work are the only ones who are unraveling the skein, the ones who are finding the truth. Historical oxymoron, unbearable boutade for much of the American Southern Cone society. On that discomfort, an impossible plot is worked on where nothing remains standing, where perseverance is only the refuge of the human being in the face of the impossibility of being free. You are constant because you can’t do anything but fool yourself and say that you at least try. Even in this the corpus of the Spanish Jesuit is destroyed, dismembered.
But that uncomfortable oxymoron, that strange police officer who is the one who shows what is real in the face of so many lies, in the face of so many versions around that mysterious bed, is becoming the bearers of the truth, those who tell and fix history, a bitter metaphor about the reality of Uruguay and many other countries. The mechanism is of a subtle intelligence and is embodied in some actors, a stable cast of the National Comedy, of an enviable solvency.
Gabriel Calderón played it in several ways. This man of theater who does not reach his forties has just been appointed director of the National Comedy. This work will be the first work that he presents as a director at the Comedy headquarters in Montevideo after the premiere in Almagro and a small tour that will take him to the Canary Islands next week. It seems that, again, he comes out unscathed and through the front door. He continues to investigate the political past of his country and its impact on the present. It would be possible to imagine a similar work on historical memory in Spain that would allow itself to reflect on our past with this political depth, but without the good and bad labels that are continually falling. Without so much taboo of the left-wing intelligentsia and being able to handle concepts and symbols, deforming them until they are understood. Perhaps this is what Calderón de la Barca himself did in the constant princein that Spain of Counter-Reformation and inquisitive beginnings.