THEATRE_Interview with Pablo Macho, founding partner of Teatro Laura alongside Ivet Zamora
On April 16, 2016, the Laura Company premiered “La Trinxera” at the Lluís de Gràcia theatre. The Laura Company was one of three young and emerging companies chosen from amongst fifty to showcase their work following a theatrical residency.
La Trinxera (the Trench in English) is a play by the company Laura, written and directed by Pablo Macho and Ivet Zamora. It was staged in Barcelona at the Nau Ivanow, the Theatre of the Raval and at the Sandaru Hall in September and October of 2016. This is what they had to say about it:
“Liz, Cata and Adela are three friends who share a flat. Through them, and their partners Borja and Patri, you will discover the customs, worries and fears of a generation.
The generation these characters belong to see their future as an unknown battlefield. Their war is one against a mass of press headlines. They live in an airtight apartment, a trench where they, in times of claustrophobia, attempt to open it up. Dreams of grandeur that remain too small.
Complex relationships and hard realities, absurd conversations and misunderstood loves. Because, in times of war, any hole is a trench”.
The artistic director of La Perla 29, Oriol Broggi, was along for the journey but without exercising his leadership over the Catalan theatrical scene, rather he was witness to the creation of a novel piece of work on social themes, according to the program published by the Lluïs.
Pablo Macho accepted our invitation to talk with him about his Company and the work he devised and wrote alongside Ivet Zamora, “La Trinxera”. We should warn you that Paul spoke openly, without entrenching himself like the youths in his work, making associations of ideas with the astonishing ease of one who is trained in the Stanislavski method, but also with his determined desire to have nothing to do with theatrical methodology, readings or techniques, but with artistic creation.
What type of theatre does the Laura Company do? Where do you take inspiration from?
The Laura Company was created by Ivet Zamora and I, who had previously dated. We wanted to do something together from the outset. The first company I was a member of -before founding the Laura Company- was called the “Malnascuts”, a platform created by some twenty-somethings at the Sala Beckett where a group of young strangers came to meet. You would submit your ideas as a playwright, as a director, as an actor or whatever and some of these were then chosen, and then this group of people, without knowing each other at all, had to create a play in about four months.
I started out like this, that is, that was my first “professional” experience. I had previously done amateur theatre, theatre at school and was in the Nancy Tuñon1 but had never been part of a professional theatre.) So I was already starting from the ground up of collective creation and at the same time, and added to the fact that in this collective creation I was the playwright and what we did, in fact, was to start from my texts, poems and things like that and, from there, create a entire poetic, symbolic, metaphorical universe, something like this but always taking a youthful approach, from the young energy of “let’s shake things up.” Besides it was the company’s first work and we invaded the Beckett theatre, we filled it with chairs… well, it was crazy. Then, from that spirit, comes the Laura Company, with the philosophy of collective creation, the actors have a voice in the text too … “I don’t see this monologue here, I think this scene is too slow” … and even “I would take it out” … Everyone has a voice when it comes to directing the work. Obviously, the final decision is made by Ivet and I, but there is always a consensus.
The Theatre that we do is somehow Social Theatre but always from our point of view. In fact, when we wrote “La Trinxera” I was afraid that people would say, “These are 20-year-olds trying to talk about political issues”. I was afraid they would see us as being too ambitious, as in “What are they trying to say to us?” But it is not really a work that aims to give any indoctrination or offer any conclusions.
How did the idea of the work “La Trinxera” come about?
The idea arose from that, from the “I want to talk about my concerns”. It is a social theatre that actually comes from oneself and this is born out of my poetic side, that has to do with the fact that the best way to talk to everyone is from oneself. Not so much about talking to the world from an outside view, but rather “I’ll tell you what I believe, what I feel”. Curiously, the deeper you dig into yourself, the deeper you get with others. This sometimes is not done in theatre, and I think this is the most important point, to write theatre from the depths of oneself and to also act from your own depths.
Yes, but Ivet Zamora co-directs. How does this encounter play out in “La Trinxera”?
Laura came later, after the idea of ”Trinxera” arose. Ivet and I decided on the name of the company. We fancied a woman’s name, a first name… and Laura is the muse of Petrarch. In ancient times, the poets who were awarded prizes were “laureates”, the name has a poetic connotation and on top of all this, in Catalan there is the homophony of “l’aura”, the aura.
Initially Ivet was only going to act. At first, I had an idea of three female roommates and I started to write the scenes, it was a mix between “jet lag”5 and Friends but from a more profound and poetic point of view, though without the inclusion of a touch of very everyday scenes.
I later asked Ivet to write and direct with me. And the idea for three different paths came from these three roommates, three possible positions of young people: a person who thinks a lot but does not show it, a person who does not get to think and simply follows the path that is already laid out and a person that refuses to think and on top of it, locks herself up.
Yes, and in the flat, the three girls share their personal stories and, in the background is the boyfriend of one of the girls, and the girlfriend of another. Who are they?
Adela, who is the character Ivet plays, is, broadly, a caricatured version of me as a woman. It is Paul taken to the extreme … “I write and I lock myself in my house and I don’t go out and, when I do go out, I just do my own thing”, it is like a caricature of me, with all my mental paranoias. “No degree will make me feel complete, I do not know what to do, I have a lot to say but I do not know who to say it to…”
Liz is a girl who comes from a well-to-do family and lives a little enclosed in herself and in technology. She is a girl who likes the Internet and new technologies and despite having a little to say about politics when it comes to talking about Anonymous, she is a girl who is very aware of social networks and, furthermore, her relationship with Patri is completely one of submission and of accepting that she will never rule over others.
Then, Cata, who does not appear in the play, but is the butchers’ daughter, coming from a humble neighbourhood and, through effort …. she is a “self-made” posh girl, her parents have gone to great lengths to give her a good education and she has built an entirely new identity for herself.
We tried to look for a posh girl that could, at any given time, also be a little vulgar. Cata is the girl who accepts the conditions of the system and her goal is simply to climb; that is to say, “I accept how the system works, trying to change it is a waste of time and I follow the established path and that’s enough until … the goal is met, and the goal is to live well, live comfortably, accept the establishment and not pretend to do anything else”.
Then there is Patri. She is Adela’s sister and Liz’s partner. She is practicality-in-person. In fact, this does not come up in the play but I think it should, it would make you laugh … She is a girl who has studied Psychology but not so much out of curiosity or self-interest, but simply because she saw that the human race is becoming schizophrenic and that psychologists are going to have a lot of work. She looked at it like that. If I want to have guaranteed work in the future, I become a psychoanalyst, the world is going crazy.
But she has to work on herself quite a bit!
Yes, this is the subject; the one that is most crazy is the one that studies Psychology. This is Patri, with emotional problems because she does not delve deeper into herself, she does not ask herself too many questions, nor does she try to understand others … She is very cold, she is, as it were, emotionally crippled, it is difficult for her, no one has taught her to listen to herself, or to listen to others beyond the superficial or even listen to how someone is physically, the total opposite of Borja.
Borja, who is my character, does not need to talk to anyone, he sees everything. He is a character that does not really exist, is an idealization of Nietzsche’s superman, who is actually a child, who has learnt nothing, what he does is to observe the world and to be. And Borja is just that – a kid. A twenty-something kid, a boy who does not care for appearance nor for … He simply lives in the moment, worries about smells, he likes to take photos. The monologue Ivet wrote for this character, the monologue he has about photography is wonderful … “to capture a moment and put it in the freezer so it does not spoil” So, these are the five characters.
Trinchera is a signifier that refers to the war and there is a moment in the work where you refer to the war. How do the young people who give life to “La Trinxera” experience this?
Adela, who is the character who is the most overwhelmed by this news, who is the character who investigates and who wants to know more about the conflict, in fact, all she gets is … crazy, to the point where she practically wants to commit suicide. Each character has a position before the war issue, but the play shows a part of my generation’s, quite escapist traits in different way … none of the characters says, “I’m going to go there”.
Among other things because you do not know where the war is. There is a moment in the play where the characters question the press’ headlines of acts of war, but there is no relation between them.
Yes, they could be here … The play speaks about the refugees but none of the five says: “yes I am going to go to a refugee camp”. Adela keeps herself very informed and wants to know a lot about how the current world is working but she is like “I will stay at home and, if I leave home, I won’t tell anyone what I have learnt and written, not anyone.”
The Trench is a place where you protect yourself but which also serves to attack.
Of course, but this is the issue. La Trinxera shows exactly that, what we have not noticed … that young people are in a trench … and we have everything: the energy, desire, illusions. A young man is actually in a trench and all you have to do is go out and say to those already high up “I do not want this” and go out and say: enough.
I speak of course from my personal experience, I have not done any sociological study of the subject, but I think that unconsciously, young people today have a feeling that the world is over, that “when I am 30 years old the world will not be as it is now.” We have that feeling, I wrote a poem in relation to this, we believe that promise that we are facing imminent change, that there will be a revolution. But we do not want to ask ourselves questions about who will do it if we are not doing it ourselves? That is the problem of the West, we know that we are facing a change, but we see it almost as something alien to us, “someone else will take the reins, and if there is anything I don’t like, I will complain.”
There is one man among four women, what does this man represent amongst so many women?
Yes, it may seem like it is on purpose throughout the discourse but it really has been a coincidence. In fact in this project everyone is female, including the two set designers … And with regard to the characters, it just so happened that there happens to be four girls and one boy, it is not that there was a conscious decision in the sense of “we want it to be all girls except this character in particular, who we want to be a boy” … But analysing this a little … it is curious that in a work that also speaks of abuse, the only man who appears is so meek, so calm, so sympathetic, right? So not manly in the most negative sense of the word. Borja is quite the opposite of the alpha male, he is a kid, a kid who says yes to everything.
And was there not a moment when you thought about Borja rebelling against his own condition?
There was a moment, when we took him away because his part was too long and slowed down the rhythm of the play a little, where the five were having dinner and Liz was taking some dishes with leftovers to the kitchen, and Borja suddenly became very sad and they asked him: “what is up with you? Did dinner make you feel bad?” And he said: “No, no, I’m just very sad” and he was saying very sincerely … “you’re throwing food in the trash” and always from Borja’s view of ingenuity: “If you have chosen to put this food on your plate, why have not you finished it?”
“If you chose to, you could have taken less food” … This is the only time Borja complains about what the others do … We do want the play to continue to advance and transform, and for Borja to perhaps change at some stage …
Yes, women really are the protagonists of the play…
Yes, it is very Lorquian, practically everything happens between women and the only man there does quite little. In this case, I don’t know, we didn’t think about it too much. In fact, the actress who played Cata in Lluïsos has to leave the project because she has another play and the dates coincide with the performances at the Nau Ivanow, and I was even considering changing Cata to a male character … That is, I think it is a work that allows the characters to not have a specific sex. Borja could be a girl. Adela could be a boy. It could be five girls or five boys. And I would like to take a shot at it too. In the previous play I wrote with the Malnascuts2, Esquerdes3, which we also did at the Nau Ivanow4, there was a day when an actress was ill and the assistant director had to replace her, and then instead of being a heterosexual couple they were a gay couple and surprisingly, this was the day that the scene worked the best. In addition, in that work, there were two heterosexual couples and suddenly there was a heterosexual couple and a homosexual one. Now we have another girl, Emma, and we are delighted with her, and with her, the work remains a play of women, but if Cata became a boy it would be a work of two homosexual couples and I would love it.
In fact, it would be interesting to bring queer theory to the Trinxera. Sexual difference would not be so important, the gender issue would not matter so much.
Yes, in fact there is no difference. Obviously, biologically there is, and in many other ways … but a character in a play does not have to have a sexual identity. I am referring to a modern text. It would be very complicated for Medea, for example, to be a man. Now that I have come from playing Jason in an adaptation of Medea, I cannot imagine Medea being a man, a male actor playing the character of Medea. But of course, the drama that Medea experiences is very feminine, is deeply linked to the uterus. I suppose modern texts do allow such gender ambiguity because they treat issues as universal as those, but more metaphysical.
The Trinxera reflects on different wars. One of them, the war in love. What is wrong with Liz and Patri?
It is a deeply toxic relationship, where one takes over and the other assumes the role of the victim and always accepts what the other decides. Patri is the one who makes all the decisions, and Liz goes along with it.
There is a moment when Liz changes.
Liz, at one point, sees that she has reached the limit, that she ca not continue to be sad all the time, afraid all the time and then the end of the work offers several readings for this couple.
The reading where really Liz has taken the initiative and “if we continue to be together, it must be from an equality standpoint” and “I can tell you what I think” and “you can tell me what you think” without that hurting either. Because this is another issue. Not only does Liz not dare to tell Patri what she thinks, but she is also afraid to know what Patri thinks, because she is afraid that it will hurt. Then there are three possible outcomes: “I have come this far, it is over,” “I have reached the limit and I want a more balanced relationship” or, for a more pessimistic resolution, “I have come this far but I see that, even if I have reached the limit, I cannot live without you either”.
What surprises me a lot of our generation is that there are many couples, many couples that… It is a generation that, on the other hand, in theory, is over-liberated, bisexuality is increasingly respected, the sexual freedom to be able to have sexual relationships with many people without anybody telling you anything … In principle, we are the generation that does not judge that.
Yes, Bauman’s fluid love
Yes, I have a friend who is studying sociology and he loves this … And yes, even with all this freedom, we put ourselves in these super-closed relationships, we create an incredible emotional dependence. I mean, I don’t see that dependence in my parents, for example, nor in your generation. When I talk to my uncles or people of your age it is like you talk about love from a very relaxed point of view, I don’t know, you talk about when you were our age, people did whatever, but, I don’t know, it seems that there was no feeling of possession and now, the more freedom there is about sex…
That is, the more sexual freedom, the more mortification.
Yes, that’s it, I see too many couples, and not happy but sad couples, who seems as though they are 60 years old and have behind them a whole lifetime of hating, and they are my age … It is absurd, and the relationship between Patri and Liz is like that, “we can’t stand each other and even with this, we are still together.”
Or when you are not in a couple, you have freedom …
I guess that this freedom is sometimes misunderstood and is scary. The subject is that there is no middle ground, we have a tendency, speaking in vulgar terms: “to either fuck a lot and don’t fall in love with anyone” or “fall madly in love with a person and I cannot see anyone else but this person.” There is no middle ground. The problem is obsession. Do not get obsessed over the sexual act, or about the idea of the “love of your life.” As my friend David Lopez says, “let it flow”.
So Liz realises this and can come out of her trench at the end?
Exactly … the problem is that Patri is very intelligent. And manipulative … when Patri realizes that Liz is about to leave the trench, what Patri does is to be one-step ahead, “Ah, I do not want us to be this bad, if you want, we will leave it.” And what happens? This creates fear in Liz. When Liz was taking the initiative of “either this changes or it is over,” before she finishes her reflection, Patri goes ahead and says, no, “wait, wait, if you are not fine, I’m leaving, really.” And Liz then says, “no, wait, this time it will work”. And this is how it ends, you do not know … but what happens is that in the next scene Cata says that there is pork loin for dinner and Patri, who is vegetarian, gets angry with Liz and again they argue.
So it’s not over for them, Liz has understood but she does not end it.
And this is the vicious circle in which our generation is, “I realize things, I get information, I realize that the system controls us, I realize that the war is there but … I don’t take a step forward because I’m comfortable.”
And Social Theatre, in your case, is this not a way to reject this, to take a step forward?
Hopefully. Although that does not mean that I am still a coward, I am still a 22-year-old Spaniard who has not left his parents’ house, for example, who lives on the little money he earns and what his parents give him. Yes, I do Social Theatre and I say what I think and write poetry, which is not the “normal” thing… but even so I’m not so different from the typical guy who finishes an Economics degree and goes around handing out coffee in his internship office – I’m not so different from that I think. That is, it is the same, but in another environment.
Yes, everyone dreams…
Yes, it is true that, within my thing, which is theatre, I try to do something of my own. And not just working for others.
Let’s finally talk about, if you agree, Adela’s monologue. I heard it as an ode to despair, to being torn open: books can no longer hide Adela’s anguish.
Yes, there are two monologues, I guess the one you mean is the one about “rooms”: the one that starts “mom’s house, dad’s house” and speaks of this western need to keep everything well ordered, my money in my bank, my things in my house, everything in its place and everything well locked up, that my door is armoured, just in case, that no one can enter to rob me and all this done to the extreme. Everything is in fascicles, when you are born you are already in a cradle of certain measures, and all children are in that cradle of those measures and when you get home your parents already have a cradle ready … that is, you know how your life will end up.
And it also speaks of the need to have keys in your pocket, the one great difference between a nomad and a sedentary are the keys, to know that your hands have the power to enter a place, then really the grace of this monologue is constant enumeration, to make the journey of a life through the places where it is enclosed, like Chinese boxes: “each time I am more enclosed”.
Then the enumeration of the keys, because we have keys for everything. The other day I saw a storage space ad, those industrial warehouses with billions of stores, which says “the more you live, the more things you have to store,” or something like that. Really, what lies really tell us … Really the more things you have, the more a slave you are … to yourself.
Then the other monologue is about “having to prove”. It speaks of maximum narcissism, we are in a hypertrophy of the self, as a professor of mine at university says, the selfies, Facebook … It is a curious monologue because it speaks from a very philosophical point of view on the one hand and, on the other hand, from a very poetic one, but with all the key words, like when he says “we obsess about feeding a biography that nobody will read”, that really the words that is used on Facebook is “my biography”. We all see ourselves as being future milestones of History. This monologue, for me, is one of the great “what”, topics, of the play.
In fact, this play reflects upon that issue, “I post that I realize that there is a war” and “I post that I realize that things are going wrong” and “I post that” and “I want people on Facebook to know that I’ve gone to this demonstration “and” I want people to know that I KNOW”, but deep down “I don’t do anything”. “I just want people to know.” And it is a vicious circle. Because in the end nobody listens to anything about the others. It is a silly conversation.
We are in a generation that knows a lot of things, we think that we are very educated, that we read a lot, we talk about big issues but in reality, nobody moves, we are very much just stuck in the theory.
The monologue of “showing” is a bit of that, the obsession that young people have to prove they know, to prove that they are, or show that they do but without actually doing anything. The last sentence of that monologue is “I am not what I live, but what I show I live”. We live for the display pane.
What future plans lie ahead for the Laura Company?
Next season we feel like travelling with “La Trinxera” a lot. We have dates from 22 to 25 September at Nau Ivanow. We will be at the Mostra de Teatre de Barcelona, which takes place at the Teatro del Raval, on 12 October. And we also have a performance scheduled on November 4 in the Sandaru Room, near the Arc de Triomphe. We want “La Trinxera” to go very far; we would love to have a season in Madrid.
Thank you very much Pablo. See you at the theatre!
1. “Malnascuts”, Pablo Macho’s first theatrical group created in Sala Beckett in Barcelona
2. Nancy Tuñon Studio, Theatre School located in Barcelona, with 40 years of experience.
3. Jet Lag, Catalan comedy devised by the company T of Teatre and Cesc Gay.
4. “Esquerdes”, first play of the group Malnascuts.
5. Nau Ivanow, platform of artistic projects specially designed for young creators.