Ma l’amor mio non muore
Our last presence at the 2nd International Forest Festival of Thessaloniki was the cherry on a cake that lasted almost two years, with more ups and downs than a ride in an amusement park. Thankfully, though, Electra by Portuguese company Do Chapitô was there to wish us a good summer and an even better new season.
La nostra ultima presenza al 2° Festival Internazionale della Foresta di Salonicco è stata la ciliegina su una torta che è durata quasi due anni, una torta con più alti e bassi di una montagna russa. Fortunatamente, però, l’Elettra della compagnia portoghese Do Chapitô era lì ad augurarci buone vacanze e una migliore, nuova stagione teatrale.
Η τελευταία μας παρουσία στο 2ο Διεθνές Φεστιβάλ Δάσους της Θεσσαλονίκης ήταν το κεράσι σε ένα κέικ που κράτησε σχεδόν δύο χρόνια, με περισσότερα σκαμπανεβάσματα από μια βόλτα σε ένα πάρκο ψυχαγωγίας. Ευτυχώς, όμως, η Electra από την πορτογαλική ομάδα Do Chapitô ήταν εκεί για να μας ευχηθεί ένα καλό καλοκαίρι και μια ακόμα καλύτερη νέα σεζόν.
“What’s in a spoon?”, would say Romeo Montague if he had seen the theatre performance Electra by the Portuguese Do Chapitô company, instead of having fallen savagely in love with belle Juliet Capulet while she was hanging out on a balcony. Indeed, how many uses could we find for a simple kitchen tool? A dozen, at best. Very few would see knitting needles, helms, cups, earrings, music instruments, swords, daggers, sponges, toothbrushes, champagne flutes, snakes, flowers, bones or dog ears. Grappling once again with Greek tragedies (Oedipus and Medea were the company’s first attempts), directors Cláudia Nóvoa and José Carlos Garcia brilliantly decide to expand the reach of a classic ancient mask, thus hiding behind a simple, bare, iron spoon. Lots of them to be fair.
The story is known to most: Electra and Orestes plot the murder of their mother Clytemnestra and her back-stabbing lover Aegisthus due to their own atrocious murder, that of King Agamemnon of Mycenae, the slayer of his own daughter Iphigenia. The circle of violence and revenge, skilfully related by both Sophocles and Euripides, shall know no end, as other authors will add to the suffering of this «wholesome family», just like any decent tragedy dictates. And yet, Do Chapitô focuses on a completely different set of values in their representation of this ancient merry-go-round of hatred and mistrust. Indeed, by way of a bare scene and one single object to cover for all interpreting purposes (the ultimate costume, so to say), the Portuguese thespians do what they do best with their outrageously convincing body mimicry, desecrating (with lots of respect) a sacred piece of theatre with laughter –clever, imaginative and surreal laughter.
But how can a simple spoon replace the thousand of years of representations this play has had the luck (and at times the misfortune) to have? It is all in the gesture: «The gesture is the agent of the heart, the persuasive agent. A hundred pages, perhaps, can not say what a single gesture can express, because in a single movement, our total being comes to the surface, while language is analytical and successive». By mixing tropes and skills from the Commedia dell’Arte and clownerie environments, Do Chapitô stresses the absurdity of the whole story in order to reflect the universal chaos we all live in. What was once the reason for a more than 10 years long war turns out to be a petty attempt at saving face amidst the royal milieu of the times, which included a shameful incestuous king in Thebes and a vengeful mother in Corinth, and the exile of a son is compared to a very recent (and very expensive) experience common to most families: sending a child to study abroad. By playing with their bodies and their roles – ever-changing with just the slightest vocal inflexion and a spoon more or less – Jorge Cruz, Susana Nunes and Tiago Viegas, the only three interpreters of this hefty tragedy, research and find the perfect balance between the body and the word, delivering unbelievably hilarious lines with the sternest of faces and, vice versa, making perfect sense while pulling their own dead bodies from their own hair.
Do Chapitô’s is a theatre of gesture, a minimalistic physical theatre which, using only the bare minimum, achieves one of the highest forms of expression we have seen recently. And that makes us wonder. How come that a relatively small company from a relatively poor country can do so much with so little, while most hyper-productions from hyper-funded companies easily fail (mishaps, perhaps) with their top-notch actors and directors? The answer may lie in the ability (and lack thereof) to listen, to integrate and to let others in. What Do Chapitô does so well is exactly what other companies fail even to attempt: they let the contamination in with open arms, knowing very well that all those who wish to reform the theatre will always fail if they rigidly hold on to a form that was revolutionary only in its days. What we could all learn from this 1-hour long exploit is that, perhaps, we should all live, love and let go more easily, both historically (see Electra and her lovely family) and personally. It is experience that makes us what we are, and only by living with full dedication to our own causes can we mature artistically and as human beings, even though some times it seems like we are losing something. What is right will always come back, and it will be glorious.
The show was played at
Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies
Eth. Aminis 2 – Thessaloniki
3 July 2018
Companhia do Chapitô presents
director Cláudia Nóvoa and José Carlos Garcia
performers Jorge Cruz, Susana Nunes, Tiago Viegas