Academic journal article TheatreForum

Calixto Bieito: A Catalan Director on the International Stage

Academic journal article TheatreForum

Calixto Bieito: A Catalan Director on the International Stage

Article excerpt

My references come from my Catalan, Hispanic, and Mediterranean culture. From the Spanish Golden Age, Valle-Inclân, Bunuel, Goya.... The black humor that shapes my work is part of this cultural heritage. Spain is not only about flamenco and bullfighting. It's part of my imagination. It's an approach to everything I direct. (Bieito 2003)

Most English-language publications on directors have inscribed a particular group of largely Northern European and Russian figures as the key innovators of directorial practice through the twentieth century. Spanish directors have been significantly excluded from this pantheon and, as such, have been largely erased from the documentation and elaboration of directorial trends over the past hundred years. ^ The work of directors emerging in the latter years of the Franco era certainly played a significant role in opening up international interest in the Spanish stage, but with the exception of Argentine director Victor Gardas collaborations with Nuria Espert (Las criadas/The Maids [1969], Yerma [1971] and Divinas palabras/Divine Words [1975]), it was the work of Albert Boadella with Els Jogiars and Joan Font with Els Comediants (companies formed in 1962 and 1971 respectively), along with that of their provocative successors La Fura dels Baus (formed in 1980), that is probably best known outside Spain. This may be because they have worked largely within performative (rather than theatrical) parameters and within the physical vocabularies of performance. Increasingly, however, over the past 15 years directors have played a significant role in opening up international interest in the Spanish stage. These figures may have impacted more significantly on French and German theatrical consciousness than the Anglo-American theatre academy but they have served to ensure that the festival marketplace has increasingly moved beyond the more familiar fare of the ludic Catalan performance companies.

Perhaps the most prominent of these has been Calixto Bieito, a Catalan-based director who has emerged in recent years as a regular feature of Brian McMaster's Edinburgh International Festival. Bieito's work was actually first seen outside Spain, however, in 1995, two years before his Edinburgh debut, when his staging of Shakespeare's King John/El rei Joan was presented at the Dijon Festival. Bieito, however, had been a significant director within the Catalan theatre scene since the mid1980s when he made his professional debut at Barcelona's Adrià Gual theatre with El joe de lamor i de l'atzar/The Game of Love and Chance. At a time when Spanish, and particularly Catalan, theatre was defined through the acrobatic ingenuity and gestural stylization of the performance companies, Bieito followed the example of Lluís Pasqual and Barcelona's Teatre Lliure (formed in 1976) in providing intelligent textual readings that evolved on sparse scenographic environments where shifts of mood, tone, and emphasis were often realized in fast, physical terms. While Bieito has never directly acknowledged the influence of the Lliure's trajectory on his own, it is worth noting that he worked as an assistant director to Pasqual (while the latter was artistic director of the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe) in 1992 on the staging of ValleInclán's Tirana Banderas/Bandras the Tyrant. Pasqual had invigorated the Catalan theatre scene between 1976 and 1983 with uncluttered productions of international plays where simplicity replaced elaboration and actor proximity was paramount, and he too became a significant "export" during his time as artistic director of Madrid's Centra Dramàtico Nacional (1983-89), with key productions of García Lorca's "impossible" plays El público/The Public (1986) and Comedia sin titulolPlay without a Title (1989), both also seen at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe. A decade later, in the mid-1990s, Bieito too directed key productions at the Teatre Lliure as the venue was struggling to discover its purpose with the new Teatre National de Catalunya (TNC) established as a Catalan government subsidized, three-auditoria venue for the promotion of Catalan-language theatre. …

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