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Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Grec Festival in Barcelona vibrates on its first weekend with Israel Galván and Thomas Ostermeier

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There were only a few minutes left before Israel Galván took the stage Barcelona Flower Market on this Sunday afternoon, when the news got around in the lobby: “Peter Brook is dead.” And it was impossible to remember that this stage existed precisely at the suggestion of the late British director who staged his version of the opera in 1983 carmen von Bizet in the municipal workshops of Montjuïc next to the Mercat and offered the City Council to inaugurate this place with a show if he transforms this place back into a scenic space. You listened to him! And he kept his promise: in 1985 the Mercat opened as a municipal theater with the Mahabharata, Brook’s pinnacle.

Thirty-seven years later, there couldn’t be a better tribute to Brooks’ bold foreboding than a show from Israel Galván, the boldest and most transgressive bailiff of the era. A show in which the artist synthesizes centuries of popular imagination and the same dances while the children of the Escolania de Montserrat sing, marking a spectacular tap dance with a curse song in the background or reconstructing a choreography inspired by the Dance of the Sixes –a dance performed three times a year by a group of children in Seville Cathedral– at the same time some baroque sonatas for harpsichord are played and a girl keeps repeating: “You don’t know how to play sticks; you can’t gossip; You don’t know how to dance sevillanas”. A permanent play with tradition and symbols, with irony and seriousness at the same time, full of details in every moment, in addition to this unique and special way of dancing that Galván has.

It was the second and last performance of sixes, the work that Israel Galván presented in absolute premiere this Saturday at the Mercat de les Flors. One of the highlights of the first weekend of the greek festivalopened last Wednesday with a show by Nederlands Dans Theater, the emblematic Dutch dance company founded by Jiří Kylián. The festival’s other big bet for these first few days, also with only two performances on Saturday and Sunday at the Teatre Lliure, was the special version of the German Thomas Ostermeier by an enemy of the people, by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, another masterpiece of European theater history that did not disappoint audiences in Barcelona either.

When this play was first performed in 1883, quite a scandal ensued. It almost always happened with Ibsen’s suggestions, including dollhouse, First performed in 1879, the protagonist is a middle-class housewife who leaves her husband with a slammed door in the mid-19th century. In case of An enemy of the people Ibsen dared to question democracy itself, which was then beginning to illuminate Europe after centuries of absolute monarchy and authoritarianism, but was still in its infancy and very fragile. So it didn’t seem appropriate to overemphasize his shortcomings. The incredible thing is that almost a century and a half after democratic practice, the text still arouses excitement and a desire for discussion, especially when staged by Ostermeier, one of the great names in contemporary theater, director of the renowned Schaubühne in Berlin. It happened at Lliure on Saturday: for about half an hour, in the middle of the performance, the audience was invited to discuss who the bad guys in the play were and there was no minute’s silence.

A scene from “An Enemy of the People”, in the version by Thomas Ostermeier. Thomas Aurin

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Released in 2012, this enemy of the people de Ostermeier misleads in its first part because it seems like an update without more than a well-known text whose reasoning no longer surprises anyone in a world more than scalded by democratic corruption and which is generally indifferent to them because they than the lesser are considered devilish. Its main character, Dr. Thomas Stockman, discovers that the water of the spa town where his town lives is contaminated and wants to make it public, which would ruin the neighbors, but the local armed forces, in collusion with the media, end up destroying the doctor’s reputation and to convince the citizens to declare him an “enemy of the people”. Manipulation, demagogy, greed, lust for power… in short, nothing we don’t know about.

But already in the last third of the spectacle, Ostermeier plays it for us as Ibsen played it for the audience of his time. In the middle of the speech of the poor and beaten Stockmann, who has won the sympathy of the audience throughout the performance and is shouting against the rottenness of the system, another character in the play interrupts him and goes to the stalls to draw attention to what Stockmann actually demands: There citizens are so easily manipulated and don’t know what’s good for them, it’s better not to let them make decisions about important things. In addition, we must destroy all the corrupt and those who refuse to rebuild civilization. The public is invited to a show of hands to vote on whether or not Stockmann is right in this argument, and almost everyone present votes for him. But the anger is served: “How is it possible that you choose a guy who demands to destroy the fools and put an end to democracy?” says the antagonist of the doctor. Opinions of all kinds are heard: from a psychoanalyst who accused drug companies of instigating all the ills on the planet, to another viewer who cited the rise in electricity prices as a symptom of the current degeneration of the system. Not bad for a play written 140 years ago.

Ostermeier premiered his version in 2012 and has since been performed on forty stages worldwide, always sparking interesting debates. Catalan Àlex Rigola did something similar in 2018 at the now-defunct Pavón Kamikaze theater in Madrid, although his proposal was limited to a public vote with no subsequent debate. Before the Ostermeiers this Saturday in Barcelona, ​​the opinion of the spectators was unanimous: yes to democracy, no to demagogy. But is that possible?

Source elpais.com

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