10 September 2018
Nearly one year after the premiere of “Medeia” [Medea] at Teatro Campo Alegre [October 2017], you re- turn to Teatro Municipal do Porto with a new project that is rather different from the previous one.
Definitely. It [“Estava em Casa e Esperava que a Chuva Viesse” / I Was at Home Waiting for the Rain to Come] is a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, an absolutely extraordinary author, a pivotal name in the 1990s. He passed away quite young, but left a very important legacy. He was an editor, theatre director, actor and activist. In the case of this text, I like to think he was at home reading “A Casa de Bernardo Alba” [The House of Bernarda Alba, by Federico García Lorca] and he thought: “How can I do this without blocking the windows with bricks?” (laughter). Even if it’s not, it seems to me that he’s rereading Lorca’s work. An utterly feminine universe, but devoted to man. That is something about which I’ve been thinking, as a result of my experiences: how we can be militant feminists, and still always end up submissive; how we have this propensity to bow to the male figure, in the best and worst sense. The text is but this: five women, five people defined by their role in relation to the man. The mother, the grandmother and the sisters, when he comes back home to die. I’m always revolving around death, but this is a different one. This death dried up during life, it drank all of it.
Is that what counts when you choose a given author, his connection to death, the existing relation between finitude and life? Or are there others aspects that bring you closer to a certain play?
First of all, the relation to writing weights a lot. I need to listen to them here [points to her ear], I need to listen to them and to be able to listen to them several times, in order to be able to take them on stage. I need to establish a relationship. As a director, I’m deeply selfish, and I need to feel it all, to feel that I want to listen to (and watch) all of that on stage.
In that selfish, lonely process, how do you picture the whole? How do you build what the ear hears and the mind conceives? How do you move from the inside to the outside in the process of bringing a text such as this to the stage?
I read this text many years ago. I have to say I like this process — letting the texts go to sleep inside of me, and then retrieving them a few years later. In my head, I know I want it to take place on stage. People must feel that watching a theatre play is a wonderfully obscene act. None of us should be there, none of us should listen to that, it is all deeply intimate. Many years ago, my staging of this text resorted to church confessionals, having people peeking into the unknown. Now I picture two sides. Side A is the structure of a house. The audience steps in, there’s no place to sit, just a few bunks. It is pitch-black and they listen to a voice, the mother’s voice. We know it’s there, but we don’t know where it’s coming from. As for side B, people return to the stage, all is lit, and the actresses are there doing something we can’t figure out. At bottom, it is a depiction of what we do when we await someone; of how we spend time with minu- tiae; of what it is to just be and of that being enough. It is another side of this object that turns it into something else.
After all of this, what comes next? Will you revisit an author you’re already familiar with, or is it a new adventure with a new text yet to explore?
I very much want to tackle “Morte em Tebas” [Death in Thebes], by Jon Fosse, which is as anti-Fosse as it can get. I have such a strong connection to the classics that people treat me as a “classics director”, when in fact I have never staged a single classic. I’ve worked on contemporary authors who engage in a dialogue with classic literature, be it [Heiner] Müller or [Valère] Novarina, and since I don’t update them at all, the style itself leans to the classic. However, even if I have never directed a classic play, I’d very much like to. I hope it will hap pen soon. I want to go back to Novarina in 2020 with “Opereta Imaginara” [The Imaginary Operetta], a great musical feast. A few UFOs come up in the midst of all of this, sometimes as an answer to open calls for which I apply, because I’ve realised I enjoy doing a few things slightly off course. Entering a different territory, where I can play a little more, as I did recently with dancing Godzillas (laughter), and I can go as far as the trashiest thing. I’m very tempted to do something like that next year — all that I swore I’d never do: an auto-biographical, more intimate piece written by me. I’m willing to break a series of rules at once (laughter). It will be something shorter, planned with a very close actor, to tackle the short format, which I haven’t for some years. It is about a “non-couple” couple, whose male character keeps walking out and whose female character keeps telling him not to go. And I want to stage this in a room. In a hotel room, in a motel or in a pension at Aliados, with minimum resources, simply a bedside table lamp. My purpose in doing this is to reclaim my place as an actress, the place where the actress and the playwright meet the director. They need to find that place. And it will surely happen.
Interviewed on 26th April 2018, at
Teatro Rivoli by José Reis, communication coordinator at TMP
© José Caldeira / TMP