Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Civic Responsibility or Directorial Prerogative: Ignacio García's Political Staging of Calderón's la Cisma De Inglaterra

Academic journal article Bulletin of the Comediantes

Civic Responsibility or Directorial Prerogative: Ignacio García's Political Staging of Calderón's la Cisma De Inglaterra

Article excerpt

"THE LEADiNG CHARACTERS STAND centre-stage and spout interminably, while the minor figures are only too ready to volunteer a quick précis of what we have already heard" (Spencer). And "the play is drenched in great torrents of spoken imagery, of Gods, suns, fires, fogs and tears of ash that outstrip their dramatic purpose. There is room for some editing here" (Whitebrook). Thus spake two theater critics1 of a 1989 Royal National Theatre Studio production of Calderón's Schism in England, which played at St. Bride's Centre (Edinburgh) in a translation by John (Jo) Clifford. More than a quarter of a century later, these critical reactions were seemingly taken into account, however fortuitously, in Ignacio Garcia's 2015 staging of José Gabriel López Antuñano's performance version of Calderón's play on the boards of Madrid's Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (CNTC), under the tweaked title of Enrique VIII y La cisma de Inglaterra.2 Some hard questions emerge with respect to these two alternatives. To what extent would it serve Comedia's birthright as theater if a director's choices were to raise questions among scholar-readers as to whether a production were worthy, artistically and ideologically, of the kind of scholarly reading of performance to be undertaken here; and as to whether such critical effort would explicitly shed "new light" on the "original" play? And, conversely, to what degree are "armchair readers and critics" consciously mindful that Comedia, like plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, was penned to be performed, not simply to be perused and analyzed as dramatic literature, potential directorial appropriations and "colonization of the past by modernity" (Ryan 39) notwithstanding?

As director and dramaturge of Enrique VIII y La cisma de Inglaterra made clear,3 details were pruned primarily to foreground the touchstone concept of a leader's use and abuse of power in allowing personal interests and desires to predominate over reason of state and civic responsibility. The means used to adapt or update the play-text, it could be argued, paralleled the process Calderón deployed in adapting source material for his play, performed in 1627, from Pedro de Ribadeneyra's Historia eclesiástica del scisma del reino de Inglaterra of 1588, as filtered through Nicholas Sander's De origine ac progressu schismatis anglicani of 1585.4 The predominant idea was for the action to move at the vertiginous speed of a thriller, and for the characters to be flesh and blood, physical living beings with human emotions, unencumbered by the all too distant past. That process manifested itself in various ways: historical and theological references deemed potentially distracting were excluded; the spoken word was omitted if it could be inferred through visual enactment, given that today's public is more accustomed to seeing than to listening; static scenes were altered or transposed to make them more dynamic; lines were redistributed to round out characters; monologues and soliloquies were turned into dialogues; some one thousand verses were suppressed to create a running time of approximately one hour and forty minutes without an interval.

The director discerned three possible readings of Calderón's text: (1) a "religious" approach centering on the "great matter," a momentous schism between the Anglican and Catholic Churches perpetrated by Enrique VIII; (2) a "melodramatic" emphasis on a tragic love triangle between a king and two queens; and (3) a "civic-political" focus on what happens when a leader privileges private passions and abandons governmental responsibilities (García et al., Interviews 52, 54). García presented himself as a "barometer of society" (Berry 16) in opting, not so much to retell Calderón's counterhistorical account of Enrique VIII and Ana Bolena, nor to recount "el comienzo de la tragedia histórica de un pueblo dividido por el cisma" (Ruiz Ramón 55),5 as to meditate on issues of civic responsibility vis-a-vis political and administrative corruption. …

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