Archive | December, 2010

Book overview: Barcelona plays

1 Dec

The Barcelona Plays- a collection of new works by Catalan playwrights, published by the Martin E. Segal Theater Center in 2008 is only one of the many interesting volumes that the Segal has published to complement its really diverse and crosscultural work in promoting international theater and bridging research and practice. This particular collection includes plays by Josep M. Benet I Jornet, Sergi Belbel, Lluisa Cunille and Pau Miro all set against the Catalan capital, whose life and identity runs through the collected works as a common underlying theme.
Unlike your average tourist’s perception of Barcelona, the city here is a stifling, dark, rainy environment of cruel, disfunctional and often abusive relationships between families and lovers. From this somber background, emerge the portraits of young whores and lonely dying citizens [It’s raining in Barcelona and Barcelona, Map of shadows], failed parents and awe-inspiring foreigners [Strangers]; young artists in search of identity [Salamander]. While thematically the plays vary a lot, there seems to be a common theatrical language: the brutal confrontational relationships and the quick and abrupt speech [you will find very few lengthy monologues in the plays] are undercut by a poetic sensibility that gives the plays their particular theatricality: the characters who grow and who confront one another across time and space in Belbel’s Strangers; Lali’s collection of poems on candy-wraps in Miro’s It’s raining in Barcelona; or the apartment with the many rooms and as many lonely inhabitants in Cunille’s Barcelona, Map of Shadows. In all of those settings, people seem to be put together and must live together: rarely in all of the plays do we know how, why and when all the people came to live together under one roof. Thus the focus is placed on characters who are engaged in a battle of dealing with their bond to others – primarily family and lovers, of trying to identify in relation to these others. In that sense in particular that the plays differ drastically from, say, a Chekhovian or a North American dramaturgy: the question is not about individual fates and dreams crashed or shaped by one’s choices, surroundings and the others. Rather what is at question is a bond, the umbilical cord, that one cannot live with and cannot live without, and the constant struggle to live with and break free from the ones one is most tied to as their fates, choices and even identities are intertwined.
What is particularly interesting in this theme that runs throughout the plays in the collection and in the poetic-realistic style by which it is expressed, is whether it may open the discussion to explore the presence not only of a Catalan but of a Southern European- Mediterranean dramaturgy.