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We are living in good times for drama

28 February 2014 / 20:02:45  GRReporter
4767 reads

Fátima Taboada López


At the invitation of the Spanish Embassy, one of the great contemporary Spanish dramatists, Rodolf Sirera, is in Athens to attend the reading of his play “Maror” within the context of the 3rd Ibero-American Festival of Dramatic Readings which takes place at Instituto Cervantes. During his stay in the city, last Sunday he attended the excellent performance of his play “The venom of theatre” at Alkmini Theatre. This is his 3rd visit to Athens and he feels very glad to be here again. GRReporter had the chance of talking with him.

Scriptwriter and playwright, Sirera is one of the great innovators of contemporary drama in the Catalan language. His first successes with L'assassinat del doctor Moraleda (1970) and El verí del teatre (published and staged in 1978) were followed by those of Indian Summer (1990) and Bloody Mary Show (1980) that incorporates circus and music-hall elements, among others. Rodolf Sirera was born in Valencia in 1948. A playwright, translator, writer, consultant and administrator in the cultural sphere, he is associated with the resumption of theatre life in Valencia, in which he takes an active part as a theatre critic, researcher and publisher. In 1972, he founded El Rogle group, the main objective of which is to perform plays written in the Catalan language. He has been able to introduce some aspects of Catalan theatre to Valencia. He is the most prominent intellectual in the democratic society in Valencia after the time of General Franco. The venom of theatre (Verí del teatre) is his most famous play, which has made him popular in Spain and worldwide

How was the reception of your play on Sunday?

It was a very nice and beautiful staging. I wrote that play 35 years ago and it has been performed quite regularly in many places because it has been translated into many languages. The first performance in Greece was about 20 years ago in Ioannina. Unfortunately, I could not attend it then so it was very exciting for me to attend this new staging. The reception from the public was very good. Whenever this play is staged, it is like a new work because each director has his own way to approach the play. However, I have to say that this is one of the best versions I have ever seen.

Would you like to watch it on the big screen?

The venom of theatre has been adapted for the television 3 or 4 times, in Spain and in other countries. Long time ago I was asked to write a screenplay for it but the shooting did not take place because it was an expensive production at the time, as the action takes place in the years before the French Revolution. Otherwise, yes, of course, I would love to watch a film based on the play. The truth is that, at first, the play was written for television, not for theatre. In fact, it was released on TV first, during a show called Stage plays.

What is the situation of drama at present?

Surprisingly, the situation of drama is not as bad as expected. They say that drama is one of the arts that react best in the context of crisis, possibly because the direct contact with the audience gives it a vitality that other arts like cinema do not have. That is why in the middle of the crisis there are often a lot of plays, for example, comedies, that aim to distract us from the hard times in which we are living. That does not happen only in Spain, but also in other countries like Greece. Times are good for drama, but it is true that what is presented now is not as risky or committed as drama should be. Drama has overcome all crises and difficult times: there are many theatres in operation, many spectators. I think that is good because drama has to bear witness to what is happening in the world and be a way of escape.

What do you want to show with your drama?

Well, I live in the Valencian Community, where people speak both Spanish and Catalan. I chose to write in Catalan in order for drama to contribute towards preserving this language. The situation has improved because there are regular classes in Catalan at schools and my second intention is to consider drama as a mirror of the world in which I live and of its contradictions. The fact that Europe is not the result of present time, but the result of history, such as World War I and World War II, is also important to me as well as the history of Spain, the civil war there, the post war, the recovery of democracy. That is why I like working with the hallmarks of society in which we live. I tried to tell the stories that I would like to be told.

Each play is totally different. When you have been writing for a long time, you evolve according to the things that happen to you and you write different things. Writing is not the same when you are 30 years old and when you are 50 or 60.

Do you have any projects right now?

I do. I have written many scripts over the years and that has made it hard for me to write drama. Some of the series in which I was involved were extremely long, for example 7 years. Right now, I am trying to resume writing drama but the situation has changed for 30 years and now it is very difficult to play drama, especially if there are 4 or 5 characters, it is too long or it is not comedy. Under these conditions, it is necessary to look for interesting things that can be played.

Do you prefer writing drama or scripts?

Well, they are completely different. Writing for television is teamwork, there is not a single writer, so it is a less creative work. Theatrical writing takes place in solitude and right now, I find it hard to write drama.

How important is writing in times of crisis?

I think it is very important because the best theatre works are mirrors of the contradictions in society. A Doll’s House or An Enemy of the People by Ibsen are still relevant after 200 years because they still show problems that are typical of present society, for instance the role of women or how political interests are sometimes above the truth. These things cannot be put aside and theatre is a more direct mirror than films because you are seeing the actor and there is contact, you can feel what the character is feeling.

What is your favourite topic?

I love talking about human nature but without forgetting that there are external factors that affect humans. In Spain, we still have legacy of a civil war that was very hard and of a very difficult post war, as happened in Europe with World War I and World War II. That affected our grandparents and our parents and we run the risk of many attitudes recurring. I think it is important to have all this in drama and to generate fascination to spectators by the stories being told, so that they can think about what happened and reflect on it.

Are you happy with the fact that your play “Maror” was read in the Athens branch of Instituto Cervantes?

Yes, I am happy. My works have been translated into many languages and Greek is one of the languages to which they have been translated the most. The classical Greek theatre has been essential. In The venom of theatre, I talk about Socrates and Xenophon so I feel very close to Greece and its culture, which is the mother of all European culture. I think we would be nothing without Greece and that is why I feel very happy to be here, this is wonderful.

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