Interview with Teatro do Atlántico

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In 1985, María Barcala and Xúlio Lago founded Teatro do Atlántico, a benchmark of Galician drama thanks to the quality of their work on stage and their repertoire. Among the thirty productions that they have worked on up to date we can find works by Brian Friel, Conor McPherson or Martin McDonagh. These and other key texts of contemporary universal drama were introduced to the Galician audience thanks to María and Xúlio. Recently, with the premiere of their last play, O Principio de Arquímedes, by Josep María Miró i Coromina, Teatro do Atlántico celebrate three decades of uninterrupted work, a significant milestone for drama in Galician.

We didn’t want to miss the chance to ask them a few questions about their work and their recent visit to Cork. Have a look!

Hai uns días estivestes no simposio Translation, Language and Performance aquí en Cork para falar da longa traxectoria de Teatro do Atlántico. Nos trinta anos que levades traballando na escena galega, que anécdota(s) destacariades?

A few days ago you were in the Translation, Language and Performance symposium here in Cork to speak about Teatro do Atlántico’s long trajectory. In the 30 years you have been working on the Galician scene, what anecdotes would stand out for you?

MARÍA.- Pois en trinta anos de traballo sempre hai cousas curiosas, pero tratar de escribilas así, para un cuestionario é máis ben difícil. Con todo, tratarei de describir algo que me produciu unha tenrura moi fonda. Foi alá polo ano 1.988, no que fixemos a nosa primeira xira americana, percorrendo moitas cidades arxentinas cunha peza de orixe brasileiro que traducira Manuel Lourenzo para nós, e da que nós fixemos unha forte dramaturxia, trátase de “A MARABILLOSA HISTORIA DE MARLY, A VAMPIRA DE VILA DE CRUCES”, versión de “A bolsinha máxica de Marly Emboaba”, de Carlos Queiroz. Fixemos esta xira co espectáculo tal e como fora concibido, e no noso doce idioma galego, establecendo contacto coas comunidades galegas asentadas en cada unha das cidades ás que viaxamos, aínda que o espectáculo non era en exclusiva para eles, senón aberto a todo o público. Pois ben, nunha das funcións, durante unha escena na que Marly, a personaxe que eu interpretaba, baixaba do palco ao patio de butacas, unha muller de avanzada idade ergueuse da súa butaca e deume unha forte aperta ao tempo que exclamaba “ENTÉNDOA, ENTÉNDOA!!!”. Foi un momento intenso, pois toda a memoria de tantas galegas e tantos galegos que tiveron un día que embarcar para América, que nunca saíran da aldea e nunca se expresaran noutra lingua, e que ben saben os deuses con cantas dificultades deberon achar para adaptarse a ese novo mundo, toda esa memoria subiu por min naquel momento en que aquela emocionada muller volvía atoparse coa fala da súa nenez envolta agora na fermosura e a maxia que o teatro lle engadían, e sentín que tamén alí, nese momento o Teatro era importante, e que contribuía a dignificar e restablecer a imaxe do País que quedara atrás.

Realmente aquela foi unha xira especialmente conmovedora, na que sentín que por ser portadora do noso acento, da nosa música, se me abrían non só as portas das casas –literal: o mobiliario do espectáculo foi en cada praza prestado por persoas particulares- senón tamén os corazóns dos galegos e galegas que desde tan lonxe seguían amando o seu país de orixe.

XÚLIO.- As anécdotas desaparecen da miña memoria ao día seguinte de producírense; teño un “disco duro” moi pequecho.

MARÍA.- Well, in 30 years of work there are always interesting things, but trying to write them like this, for an interview, is quite difficult. Still, I’ll try to describe something that inspired deep tenderness in me. It was back in 1988, when we toured in Latin America for the first time, going across many Argentinian cities with a play of Brazilian origins that Manuel Lourenzo had translated for us, and for which a strong adaptation was carried out for the stage: A marabillosa historia de marly, a vampira de Vila de Cruces, version of A bolsinha máxica de Marly Emboaba, by Carlos Queiroz. We toured with the show as it was created, and in our sweet Galician language, making contact with the Galician communities established in each and every one of the cities we traveled to, even though the show was not exclusively for them, but open to all audiences. In one of the performances, in a scene in which Marly, the character I was performing, walked down to the stalls, an elderly woman got up from her seat and gave me a big hug while she said loudly, “I UNDERSTAND YOU, I UNDERSTAND YOU!”. It was a very intense moment, as the memory of so many Galician women and men who one day had to emigrate to America, who had never left their villages and had never expressed themselves in a different language [to Galician], and Gods know how many difficulties they encountered in their adjustment to that new world, all that memory rose in me at that very moment in which that moved woman met the language of her childhood surrounded now with the beauty and the magic added by drama and I felt that, at that very moment, Drama was important, and it contributed to dignify and reestablish the image of the Country that was left behind.

It was really a specially moving tour, that one, in which I felt that for being the bearer of our accent, our music, doors were open to me, and not only to houses literally: the furniture for the show was, in each and every place, lent by individuals but also to the hearts of Galician men and women who, from so far away, still loved their country of origin.

XÚLIO.- Anecdotes disappear from my memory the day after they happen; I have a very small “hard disk”.

 En Teatro do Atlántico levades tempo traballando con textos irlandeses, coma O encoro ou A raíña da beleza de Leanne. Que os diferenza de outros textos? Por que vos gusta traballar con textos irlandeses?

Teatro do Atlántico has been working with Irish texts, like The Weir e The Beauty Queen of Leenanne for a long time. What makes them different from other texts? Why do you like working with Irish texts?

MARÍA.- Tanto en “O Encoro” como en “A raíña da beleza de Leenane” atopei uns mundos moi recoñecíbeis para min, mundos dunha grandísima proximidade co entorno rural galego e coas persoas que o habitan. Aínda sen facer versión, mantendo a toponimia irlandesa e os nomes orixinais das personaxes, eu podía recoñecer perfectamente ao taberneiro de “O Encoro” e tamén aos seus parroquianos, e desde logo á Maureen de “A raíña…”, esa muller rural, frustrada e embrutecida, que sabe do vento e da choiva sobre o seu corpo, do traballo da terra e de atender ás galiñas; do traballo da casa e da nai impedida; do duro de vivir unha emigración ingrata e da escaseza de horizontes dentro da pequena vila na que se consume a súa vida. Todo ulía a verde, a herba, a choiva, a humidade,… todo ulía ao mesmo que ule a miña terra. Gocei moito con esta peza.

XÚLIO.-Na miña maneira de ver o asunto non é que “levemos tempo traballando con textos irlandeses”, senón que tivemos a fortuna de atopármonos con magníficos textos que resultaron ser de autor irlandés; o meu interese por eles non chegou por ser de autor irlandés, senón por posuír unha enorme solidez dramática e abordar historias e conflitos de gran calado humano e social, presentes tamén no día a día da sociedade galega contemporánea. Alén diso a galería de personaxes das pezas irlandesas que temos posto en escena é extraordinaria; e o contexto rural en que se desenvolven os dramas aportan un valor engadido, dado que a maioría do teatro contemporáneo que levamos traballado en Teatro do Atlántico desenvólvese nun entorno urbano.

MARÍA.- Both in The Weir and in The Beauty Queen of Leenanne I found world which were very familiar to me, worlds of huge proximity to the Galician rural environment and the people who inhabit it. Even without making a Galician version, keeping the Irish place names and the original character names, I could perfectly recognise the barman in The Weir, as well as his customers, and, of course, Maureen from The Beauty Queen of Leenanne, that rural woman, frustrated and stupefied, who knows about the wind and the rain on her body, of working the land and tending to the chicken; about the work at home and her disabled mother; about the hardness of living a hard emigration and about the lack of horizons in the small village where her life is burning away. Everywhere I could smell green, grass, rain, damp,… everything smelled the way my land smells. I enjoyed this play very much.

XÚLIO.- As I see it, it’s not that “we’ve been working with Irish texts for a long time”, but rather that we were lucky enough to find fantastic texts that happened to have an Irish author; my interest in them didn’t arise because the were Irish, but because they are very dramatically solid and they tackle deeply human and social stories and conflicts, also present in every day life in contemporary Galician society. Apart from that, the gallery of characters in the Irish plays we have brought to the scene is extraordinary, and the rural context in which the dramas take place adds value, as the majority of contemporary drama that we have worked with in Teatro do Atlántico is developed in urban settings.

Xa sabedes que na Universidade de Cork temos alumnos que estudan galego e ás veces teñen dificultades coa pronuncia. Tedes algún exercicio de dicción favorito que practiquedes antes de saír a escena e que poidan adaptar para practicar a nova lingua coa que están a traballar?

You know that here in University College cork we have students doing Galician language who sometimes find pronunciation difficult. Do you have any favourite diction exercises that you practice before you go on stage that they could adapt to practice the new language they are learning?

MARIA.- Eu practico unha táboa de exercicios vogais, pois unha boa dicción é unha ferramenta imprescindible no teatro de texto, pero o primeiro punto fundamental para facer un bo traballo vogal é a relaxación en todo o corpo, pois a tensión impide modular con corrección; así que por aí hai que comezar. E logo, como cousa fundamental, a práctica con paciencia das verbas máis difíciles, abrindo moito a boca en cada fonema, esaxerando, ata atoparlle o punto a cada son, para que logo saia a palabra sen dificultade.

MARÍA.- I practice a table of vocal exercises, as good diction is an essential tool in drama, but the most fundamental thing that enables us to do good vocal work is relaxing the whole body, as tension hinders correct modulation; they should start there. And then, it is crucial that they patiently practice the most difficult words, opening their mouth a lot with each phoneme, exaggerating, until they master each and every sound, so that the word is pronounced without difficulties.

Por último, tamén para os nosos alumnos, cales son as vosas palabras máis queridas en galego?

Last, also for our students, what are your favourite words in Galician?

MARIA.- Berce, chambra, maimiño, axóuxere, candil….

XÚLIO.- Marusía, tardiña, bico, beizo, nai, cativo, ondas

 

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