20 February 2019
We’ll present “A Manual on Work and Happiness” in March, in the scope of Paralelo – Approach Programme to Performing Arts. How do you address the issues of work and happiness in the same performance? How is it like to work with a community with no relation whatsoever with the artistic field?
The title of this project is in English simply because it is a European collaboration between several countries. In this project we worked with Spanish author and theatre director Pablo Gisbert, who has been presenting his work at Rivoli, namely with El Conde de Torrefiel. Pablo wrote the text after a two-week residency with José Capela and me in Italy. The proposal is to spend a month in residence in a city—in this case it will be here in our city, Porto working with people with no relation whatsoever with theatre. And we make them work hard to prepare this performance [laughter]. This performance does involve a lot, a lot, a lot of work, and apparently for no reason: people walk back and forth, moving some letters that spell “work” to come up with some landscapes, and the truth is there’s no other purpose than the aesthetic pleasure of succeeding in executing the landscape. It is mandatory that people do not get paid to carry out this work, because what we want is for them to come rehearse with us at the end of the day, after finishing their jobs. Our goal after this month, as we present the finished work, is for people to feel happy doing something (like theatre, in our case) that apparently serves no purpose, and to explore how to obtain that happiness working for nothing.
What can we learn from the way artists work? What is it like to be an artist working on an artist’s way of working?
What I want to share is our work. Usually the audience have access to our work when the performances are finished. What we in fact propose is to be with a group of people (roughly 20) and introduce them to our work: how we work and what are our routines, because at bottom it is work just like any other, only at the end of the day we haven’t produced a pair of shoes or made a sweater, and we didn’t make I don’t know how much profit with real estate speculation on the stock exchange or we weren’t able to attract another half a dozen tourists to downtown Porto... We do something of which there’s nothing left afterwards, except what people may carry with them in an intangible way after watching the performance. And that’s what we want: to have people with no artistic work habits sharing our work with us. And I do not intend to teach anything to people. We just want to have a good time and to be happy while carrying out this work, which… serves no purpose.
Teatro Municipal do Porto will host another play by mala voadora during this semester. It won’t be a premiere, but a rerun of a play a few years old. Concerning “Wilde”, which we’ll present in May in the scope of DDD – Festival Dias da Dança, how do you throw together the universes of Oscar Wilde, choreographer Miguel Pereira (who collaborates on the play) and mala voadora?
This is a rerun of a play mala voadora did with Miguel Pereira in 2013 based on a text by Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”. Even if lately I have been writing the texts for our plays more, plenty of other texts originate from materials that are not exactly theatre plays written for that purpose. In this case, we wanted to plunge into a classic. And not just any classic. I cherish this text very much, because it was my first professional presentation. I was attending the first year at the Lisbon Theatre and Film School and rehearsing this play at Teatro Nacional [D. Maria II]. Unfortunately, I gave up part way through the process for a number of reasons, but I’ve always liked this text a lot. At the time when we decided to tackle this text our country was going through a very troubled period as far as politics, economy and society go. So we wanted to do something like a “candy performance”, something cheerful. Consequently, we couldn’t find anything in our vicinity, and we decided to explore the Victorian period and Oscar Wilde. The uniqueness of this performance is that we didn’t exactly start with Wilde’s text, but rather with a recording made by the BBC. We used that recording from the 1940s (if I’m not mistaken) for the performance. All actors, performers and dancers are Portuguese, but we used that recording, and we built our speech over time based on something distant from us. In Oscar Wilde’s text, the leitmotiv in the performance’s plot is to point out what’s different, or how society measures others based on how they look, and what it may conceal. We decided to dress all the same way: everyone with the same wig, and everyone with the same little dress. The main character was Lady Windermere, and so we all look like Lady Windermere, despite being the husband, the father and the neighbour.
The two seasons [2017/18 and 2018/2019] during which you were one of the associated artists at Teatro Municipal do Porto are coming to an end. In a kind of overall assessment comprising the two seasons, how did you deal with the invitation, and how important was it to be associated artist and to do this work over the last two years?
When Tiago Guedes talked to me about being associated artist at TMP, I was obviously very pleased, and we [at mala voadora] were very happy with the invitation. As you know, it is somewhat difficult for artists to have stability to be able to create with the necessary conditions. TMP sets an example, providing stability to two artists form the city. Actually it was more about strengthening the relation than creating a relation, because ever since Tiago Guedes became the Theatre’s director we started collaborating with TMP more regularly. And it was a fortunate coincidence, because at the same time we had opened mala voadora here in Porto, and we started spending more time here – our main office moved to Porto. It was the final result of a relation established over the years, we’re obviously very happy about it, and it is still not over! Truth is I don’t even know where we’re going from here! [laughter].
Interview conducted on September 26, 2018, at mala voadora (Rua do Almada), by Leonor Tudela, TMP’s press officer
Image © José Caldeira / TMP