Christopher Outlaw reviews some of the performances…
Europeana from the Czech Republic used cutting irony and unashamedly physical surrealism to tell the history of 20th Century Europe (including the introduction of the bra as well as Capitalism versus Communism). The play was well received by a packed theatre, with laughter from the non-Czech majority matching that of a handful of native speakers.
Las Analfabetas (“The Illiterate Women”) was a story, at times funny, at others moving, about Ximena who cannot read and her passionate young teacher, Jaqueline.
The highly acclaimed Russian interpretation (though with a British director) of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was first rate. The set design was highly minimalist at the huge and comfortable Teatro Colsubsidio. Simple but effective costumes and water (poured or thrown over one character or another for dramatic or comic effect) were used to present what is often said to be the Bard’s most complex work.
Unfortunately, the superb quality of the acting was somewhat diminished by the appearance at one point of some gaudily dressed Russian peasant women and strange film projectitions of Soviet collective farming. This was completely unintelligible to me even though I know the story and understood both the Spanish subtitles and the Russian dialogue!
El Bolero de Rubén is a hilarious black comedy musical, full of suspense and humour, and one of my Festival highlights. Set in a deprived neighbourhood of Medellín, the play deals with love and infidelity, boredom and lust, excitement, fear and the best and worst of human nature. Presented by the Bogotá-based company La Jácara Mojiganga – a dynamic group of actors, musicians, dancers, and artists which was formed last year – the piece is both very Colombian and universal, appealing to Colombians and foreigners in the audience alike.
El Bolero’s host was Casa Ensamble – located in a Le Corbusier-inspired 1950s house on Parkway near the Universidad Nacional. If you don’t know it “Casa E” is an avant-garde hive of dramatic ingenuity combining around a dozen theatre spaces and a buzzing bar and café with a social and educational mission.
The most impressive work I watched was a spectacular Korean production at the covered Coliseo-El Campín stadium. The Theatre Troupe Georipae used Korean- and Spanish-inspired dancing and music and an innovative and colourful set to present Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), a tragic play by the great Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca. For me, this work epitomises the eclectically international nature of Bogotá’s Theatre Festival – a Korean production of a Spanish play performed in Colombia watched by an audience of numerous nationalities!
By Christopher Outlaw