The programming of the 37th Festival of Almada will be almost exclusively Portuguese given the circumstances experienced in the last few months, with only three international productions being maintained.
The Festival will take place this year from the 3rd to the 26th of July. The extension of the calendar and the increase in the number of sessions for each show respond to the need to reduce the capacity of the rooms by half.
There will be no outdoor shows. The seven rooms that will host the shows, in Almada and Lisbon, will have marked seats, and the use of a mask by spectators will be mandatory.
The Festival opens to Portuguese theatrical creation, which returns to the stage after three and a half months of stopping. The personality honoured in the 2020 edition is the actor and stage director Rui Mendes.
FRUITION AND TRAINING
Youth, sexuality, colonial heritage, gentrification, gender violence, the opacity of the financial world, religious intolerance, the growth of populism and the importance of literary memory are some of the topics covered in this year’s 17 shows, among which are three premieres.
This year, Madalena Victorino will be responsible for the training course The sense of the Masters, aimed at students and theatre professionals. The author of the poster for this edition is the artist Pedro Proença. As every year, there will be debates between creators and the public: in 2020 there will be 14 conversations, the Esplanada Colloquia.
“Rebota, rebota y en tu cara explota“, a performance by the Catalan duo Agnès Mateus and Quim Tarrida, is a libel against femicide. In Spain, when the show opened in 2017, an average of two women a week had been murdered for the past ten years.
The creators note that “if they had been football players, then maybe someone would have done something in that space of time“. Winner of the Sebastià Gasch Award 2018, the show reveals the way in which the imaginary Walt Disney and language itself have continued to relegate women to a subordinate condition.
Future Lovers also come from Spain, by the company La Tristura, which profiles a group of boys and girls born with the 21st century, for whom “God does not exist”, and who is easier to communicate through mobile phones than that by mouth. At some point, someone says: “We are young, cute and we are ready for anything: we are going to make the revolution!” And love? What space do you have in your lives? For the daily El Mundo, the Madrid company La Tristura is “one of the Spanish groups with the greatest understanding of what theatre is”.
Mario Pirovano, the disciple of the Italian Master Dario Fo (Nobel Prize for Literature 1997), presents in Almada Johan Padan to the discovery of the Americas: a comic anti-epic narrated from the point of view of a fugitive from the Italian Inquisition, and that ends it for seeing himself on board the ships of Christopher Columbus. The text debuted at Expo ’92 in Seville with a notable scandal: instead of celebrating the 500 years of the discovery of the American continent by Europeans, the text by Dario Fo and Franca Rame denounces the slaughter and prey practised by the conquerors as soon as they landed in the New World.
Three national premieres
This year the festival opens with the premiere of “Bruscamente o Verão Passado“, by Tennessee Williams, in a staging by Carlos Avilez for the Teatro Experimental de Cascais.
Celebrated by the 1959 film adaptation – starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift -, this play is considered one of the most enigmatic of the American playwright, constituting a denunciation of intolerance related to homosexuality in the society of the 50s.
Comuna – Teatro de Pesquisa also premieres a play at the Festival: “As Velhacarias de Scapin“, by Molière, staged by João Mota and translated by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The French author paid tribute to the commedia dell’arte in this text: Scapin is inscribed in the vast gallery of astute servants of European literature.
Scapin’s role is one of the most coveted of dramaturgy French, having already been played by actors such as Jean-Louis Barrault. The third premiere of the Almada Festival is from The Algarve Theater Company: Instructions to abolish Christmas, by Canadian Michael Mackenzie, staged by Isabel Pereira dos Santos.
Premiered in Montreal in 2011, the play addresses the effects of the 2008 financial crisis following the bankruptcy of the American bank Lehman Brothers, having subsequently been rewritten by the author to include the effects of Brexit on the European economy.
The two National Theaters
The National Theater D. Maria II and the National Theater São João coincide in Almada at the 37th edition of the Festival with two creations by its artistic directors. Tiago Rodrigues plays By Hearth, the monologue in which he teaches a Shakespeare sonnet to ten spectators who join him on stage; and Nuno Cardoso presents us his most recent staging: Castro, by António Ferreira, who made three recitations in March at the time of his debut and who did not return to the scene.
By Heart debuted in Lisbon in 2013 and since then Tiago Rodrigues has been on a tour that has taken him to over ninety cities in the world. Teaching a poem on stage to ten spectators is the motto for a trip to the poetic experience, during which it alludes to the “importance of transmission, of the invisible contraband of words and ideas that only keeping a text in memory can offer”. “As soon as 10 people know a poem by heart, there is nothing the KGB, CIA or Gestapo can do. This poem will survive ”, are the words of George Steiner.
The French daily Le Figaro considered By Heart “so deep, so ambitious and so magnificent that we left him completely moved”. “Captive is, whoever wins”: this is the motto that the Teatro Nacional São João chooses to announce to Castro that Nuno Cardoso stages. António Ferreira’s tragedy is commonly considered the most beautiful and perfect play ever written in Portuguese.
In his reading, Cardoso transports us to a loving tragedy “in the times of Tinder”, placing the historical characters in an anodyne duplex whose divisions are continually in view of the viewer.
Other Portuguese creations
Companhia de Teatro de Almada presents two shows at the Festival: Mártir, by Marius von Mayenburg, staged by Rodrigo Francisco, and Viagem de Inverno, by Elfried Jeli-nek, staged by Nuno Carinhas.
For her interpretation in Mártir, Ana Cris received the SPA award for Best Actress in 2018. Vicente Wallenstein was nominated by the same entity for the award for Best Actor. Time out magazine considered Mártir one of the ten best shows of the year. This piece tells the story of Benjamin, a teenager who refuses to attend swimming lessons one day because his classmates wear a bikini and start to quote the Old Testament to denounce the supposed moral degradation in force.
For the writing of Winter Travel, Elfriede Jelinek revisited Schubert’s homonymous cycle on poems by Wilhelm Müller. In Winter Travel, the writer discusses some episodes of Austrian life, such as the rescue of the bank Hypo Alpe or the abduction of Natascha Kampusch (who lived eight years in captivity), and affront the contemporary world: the permeability between finance and politics and the trivialization of affective relationships, for example.
Nuno Carinhas’ show is performed by three actresses from three different generations: . It is the second time that António Pires has directed a play by Gertrude Stein at the Almada Festival. This time Teatro do Bairro brings us The World is round, one of the few stories that Stein wrote for children, that Luísa Costa Gomes translated and that, according to the Portuguese writer, “an excellent introduction to Stein’s literary work”.
The show won the 2019 Authors Award for Best Theater Play. The maid Zerlina, the narrative of the Austrian Hermann Broch, with scenography by Pedro Cabrita Reis, constituted the “discreet, subtle, and effective debut in the staging of João Botelho” (in Time out). The director wrote that “you can’t do good theatre about something: you can only do good theatre with some beautiful things”.
And – in addition to the beautiful text, the discrete set design, and the luminosity with a dramaturgical sense – João Botelho points out “the communion with the wonderful Luísa Cruz” as the key to the success of this project. The actress’s interpretation of this show earned her a Golden Globe, and Luísa Cruz dedicated the award “to those who have no voice: men and women”.
Bohumil Hrabal once said that he came to the world only to write A lonely noise too loud – and actor António Simão, from the United Artists, seems unable to disconnect from the monologue he extracted from the text of the Czech author. Simão debuted this piece in 1997 and has been representing it, on a tour of more than twenty years.
Hrabal drew on his own experience as a ‘bookseller hangman‘ by constructing a parable about the censorship that totalitarian regimes of the 20th century exercised in the Czech Republic. Too noisy loneliness is also a declaration of love for Literature: as exaltation and as salvation.
In his Interviews with Salazar, António Ferro wrote that he had suggested to the Portuguese dictator that: “The people like people to try to amuse and nurture him”. To which Salazar replied: “You are absolutely right; thus we will convince the people that we think of him ”.
The major issue of the Portuguese world, by Teatrão, addresses the role that the National Broadcaster had in spreading the Estado Novo ideology. In looking at this period, the Coimbra group seeks to confront the present, reflecting on the new populist waves and the influence of the mass media in the propagation of ideas that point to the dictatorship as the inevitable solution to the evils social.
The new Portuguese dramaturgy
Tiago Correia (b. 1987) is the author of almost a dozen plays, having won the SPA’s Portuguese Theater Grand Prize twice, with the texts Pela water (2016) and Alma (2018).
Turismo, a premiere of A Turma earlier this year, addresses the problem of gentrification, as well as the effects of tourist pressure to which the main Portuguese cities have been subjected. In this specific case, we speak of Porto.
Raquel Castro (b. 1981) wrote Turma de 95 from an original idea of the English company Third Angel (Class of 76). Premiered at the end of last year, the show by Companhia Barba Azul is nominated for the Portuguese Authors Society Award in the categories of Best Text and Best Theater Show.
Based on her experience as a student at the Salesianos school in Lisbon, Raquel Castro traces the profile of a generation and goes looking for the fates of her former classmates in her 95s. What is done with these kids?
Rui Mendes (b. 1937) is the recipient of this year’s Festival de Almada. One of the most prominent Portuguese actors, with a path that encompasses theatre, television and cinema.
More than a hundred shows have been part of his long and fruitful career, having been featured in Teatro Monumental, Teatro ABC, Teatro Nacional Popular, Teatro da Malaposta and Novo Grupo, of which he was a co-founder. Staged at the Teatro da Cornucopia and at the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, among other rooms.
During the Festival period, an exhibition in homage to Rui Mendes entitled The actor who wanted to be a signalman, by José Manuel Castanheira, will be displayed in the foyer of the Joaquim Benite Municipal Theater.
Thought, debate, exhibitions
An extra-show program offers a diverse set of events that dialogue with what is happening on the stage. On the 20th of July, at 6 pm, at the Esplanada da Escola D. António da Costa, the 6th volume of the O collection is launched sense of the Masters, by Hajo Schüler, entitled What can be seen.