28 January 2019
In February 2019, you present “A Fera na Selva” [The Beast in the Jungle] at Teatro Municipal do Porto. The play is based on a classic text, but takes a more contemporary approach to it. How did you come up with the idea of looking at a text that was originally written by a man, but that was reworked by a woman a few years later?
This performance is based on “A Fera na Selva”, by Marguerite Duras, and it was the result of an invitation by Fernando Luís Sampaio to present a performance at CCB. After having worked on some texts, however, I decided to reverse the invitation, and I asked Fernando and Luísa Taveira to make me a proposal. I like being commissioned, and I was given two texts from which to choose: one by Carson McCullers or this one by Duras, which transforms an early 20th century text by novelist Henry James. I favoured this one, because it is less inhabited. I appreciate periphery over centre, and I went with this one because I like her plays, her films and her writing. What I like most about this text is that it is chamber theatre, in which a man and a woman discuss a ghost over six tableaux. I’m interested in exploring the history of theatre, where it comes from, the issues pertaining to the text, when and when not to establish a scene, when there is or when there no longer is theatre. There is, however, something that may never be overshadowed: the love for the text, because theatre is still very much linked to literature, at least the one meant for the stage. This is a mysterious performance. It holds an enigma without me ever projecting my political, economical or social thinking. I don’t care about that. I care about dealing with mysteries and enigmas.
What excites you the most about this text, and how will you stage it?
This performance has the excellent initial input by Henry James, the greatest English language writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And I have an interest in a late 20th century female writer [Duras] who filters it all and adapts it to a special place, which is the stage, an exceptional place where everything resonates differently. In general, it is said that mediocre texts result in great stage works. This is an inward-looking play about someone who is frightened for not having an occupation of life, be it professional or personal. They are two aristocrats, a man and a woman. The man [played by actor Filipe Duarte] is paralysed with fear, because he believes a major catastrophe awaits him. It stops him from living. The female character [performed by actress Margarida Marinho] commiserates with him, time goes by between distractions, they grow old and they die. The beast never jumps out of the jungle, and nothing really happens. It is a play on impasse and the fear of asserting things in life.
Just recently we saw you on stage as the main character [impersonating “Timon of Athens”, staged by Nuno Cardoso/Ao Cabo Teatro in April 2018 at Teatro Rivoli], and we now find you on the other side of the stage, directing actors. When did actor Miguel started sensing he could also be theatre director Miguel, and what do you find interesting in that role?
Well, I decided to start directing, because I want to do things I never see anyone doing. And since I never see anyone doing them, I believe there’s place for me in this picture. That’s why I started directing in 1998. I have now directed over 30 plays, and I really enjoy managing and coordinating, because in my view all of this has always something to do with family. All those who collaborate, no matter if it’s two days, a few minutes or several months, represent a new family. This is an artistic concept very much put into practice by people like [Rainer Werner] Fassbinder or [John] Cassavetes, who would go after who they wanted, who would form actual families. I find that important. Personally, I’m rather lonely and I also find that social rapport in the teams with which I work. It is as if we were setting up a long family dinner or some holiday get-together. We build something, and it leaves a lasting, even unique impression.
What can we expect from you as a theatre director — and even as an actor — in 2019 and in the following years? Something similar to this latest work, or would you rather tackle other authors?
There are authors who are almost unknown and who I’d like to tackle. Catholic French authors, the forgotten authors from the dark ages, the Middle Ages, the French liturgical drama. Then there’s a 19th century group that no one goes for: the late Romantic writers, who produced texts that were used by great actors, when there were men writing texts for women. “Camille”, for example, which I’ll stage. I can’t say when just yet, but I really will. I like this repertoire, but I am also fond of horror, boulevard or crime theatre. Ouch, there is endless playwriting I’d like to explore [laughter].
Interviewed on 16th May 2018, at Teatro Rivoli by José Reis, communication coordinator at TMP
Image © José Caldeira / TMP