‘Once upon a time such a country’ between dictatorship and revolution

The play ‘Once upon a time this country: Telling the Dictatorship and the Revolution’, at the S. Luiz Theater in Lisbon, ends a cycle dedicated to memory, begun by the Teatro do Vestido in 2014, and is “a fantastic experience “.

The company’s artistic director, Joana Craveiro, added that the show on stage in S. Luiz is aimed at children in the first cycle of basic education, and closes the course started with “A living museum of small and forgotten, “a play directed at the general public, premiered in 2014, co-produced with the Zé dos Bois Gallery, which hosted it, as well as the municipal theatre of António Maria Cardoso in Lisbon.

Once upon a time there was a country like this: Telling the history of the dictatorship and the revolution well” – with all the sessions already exhausted, according to Joana Craveiro – refers to a scenario of a classroom, along which the actors explain the “idea of a grey and closed country, at the time of the dictatorship, where one could do very little, where people were watched and where there was a political police.

The show “has been an incredible experience” because it raises many questions about contemporary Portuguese history themes that Joana Craveiro “had not imagined possible” in such small children.

“I never learned anything about those subjects, let alone the first four years of schooling,” she told, “being pleasantly surprised” by the reaction of the children, who are generally aware of some of the facts described in the spectacle, which also denotes “how much Portugal has changed“.

In this ‘class-piece’ there is also a story of a country that spent time in black and white, where there were resistant and militant communists, where “prohibited books were written, where there were people who could not read, people who were forced to emigrate and where there were also clandestine radios, “he observed.

The presidential elections of 1958, during the Estado Novo period during the Salazar regime, with the candidacy of Humberto Delgado – the “general without fear” – and his defeat in a fraudulent process that would give Americo Thomaz a victory, the last President of the Estado Novo dictatorship, are other moments of the story spoken in the play.

The colonial war and the assassination of Humberto Delgado in February 1965 in Olivenza (Spain), at the hands of a group of regime political police agents – the International and State Defense Police (PIDE) – led by Rosa Cavaco, are also stages of Portuguese history not forgotten in the show, he said.

It was a dark and grey period to which the “openness” allowed by the Revolution of April 25, 1974, which, as he indicated, brought the end of the colonial war, freedom and openness of the country abroad, among other advantages.

The play, which is last played on Sunday in S. Luiz, continues to privilege the themes that have guided the work of the Theater do Vestido, centred above all on the contemporary history of Portugal, as a result of the investigation carried out by the company and its artistic director over time, and with which they are presenting the gathered documentation.

It is a work made from an intensive four-year research that traverses more than 80 years of the History of Portugal, focusing on three crucial moments: the Estado Novo dictatorship, the Revolution of April 25, 1974, and The Revolutionary Process that followed it (PREC – Revolutionary Process in Progress) -, built on the basis of an “idea of a conference or a performative lecture“, underlined Joana Craveiro.

Once upon a time there was a country like this: Telling the dictatorship and the revolution well,” for an audience between the ages of six and ten, it was premiered on Monday with representations for schools and for families on Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

The sessions for schools took place included conversations with the artists after the shows.

The text and the direction of the play are by Joana Craveiro, in a co-creation and interpretation of Estêvão Antunes, Francisco Madureira, Inês Rosado and Tânia Guerreiro.

This co-production of Teatro do Vestido and S. Luiz Teatro Municipal has music and sounds by Francisco Madureira, scenography by Carla Martinez, costumes by Ainhoa Vidal and lighting by João Cachulo.

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