Voila Festival – The Cockpit
13th-17th Nov. This production has now closed.
Republica starts with a literal bang. One of the performers enters clad from head to toe in a stuffy, black dress only to reveal a fabulous, mostly naked, and feather-adorned body. This body exists in defiance of the oppressive regime that preceded the birth of Spain’s most liberal government to date. The performance artist, wearing either the horns of a devil or a bull, rattles off the many progressive approaches the short-lived government took in this new Spain. This includes LGBTQ rights, rights for women, and unprecedented access to healthcare. He builds excitement, filling the room with colorful banners and balloons, but the audience has trouble matching his enthusiasm.
He is joined onstage by two others, one who accompanies with electric guitar, and his flamenco partner, a regal woman in red who identifies as Spain itself, in all its passion and elegance. “I only dance with the greats,” she offers to her devilish counterpart. And so begins an interpretive retelling of the turbulent years of a distinctly Spanish upheaval. Dialogue largely gives way to impassioned footwork, mournful songs, and bare flesh slathered in red paint. George Orwell even makes an appearance, proudly showing his support for the revolution in his Union Jack boxer shorts. None of what followed was entirely clear to me in terms of historical timeline, perhaps it was a series of impressions, provocations of feeling that was stirred up during this turbulent time. Some of it landed, some of it didn’t.
Watching, I was reminded of a poem by gay, Cuban exile Reinaldo Arenas, in which he says “Flags, flags, front and back. Up and down … flags. Thousands and thousands of flags placed with urgency even in the smallest recesses …” The fervor, the burning taste for change, all of this wrapped in the pride of a nation, the richness of the people, and the shared pain of history. Maybe the fact that this story has been given voice, and performed by those who are so often disenfranchised, ignored, and left out in the rain, is a testament to the power sheer will and cultural belief has on the direction of a nation.
© S.Kane 2018