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Between borders: e se elas fossem para Moscou? (What if they went to Moscow?)

The choice is important right from the beginning. Even when, because it is banal and inconsequential, we fail to realize that. Picking the queue on the right or the left to enter the “free room” of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II would mean, even before the start of the show, and without being aware of it, to divide the spectators in order to guide them to two distinct spaces: while half of them was seeing the play, the other half ended up watching the projection of the film directed live, based on recordings made on the stage. On that moment, one of those two experiences was irreversibly chosen.

Facing this sequence of choices – voluntary or not – upon which life is structured, “how can we change it?” is the emerging question. From the being that was drawn to the world where everything that happens. “It is as if we were on the edge of the trampoline of a swimming pool and the water, down there, blue, crystalline, shining and the past is queuing up, pushing us forward, and at the same time, we are hesitant to jump”. We know that the water – in its liquid form – here perceived as the future, it’s a matter that cannot be grabbed nor shaped. We, nonetheless, are made of it.

Irina (Julia Bernat) is celebrating her 20th anniversary and with those years she still carries the power of certainty and already the lucidity of limitation. Olga (Isabel Teixeira) is the structure of the house inhabited. Maria (Stella Rabello) projects her own salvation in her idea of love. These are the Three Sisters (1900) of Antón Chekhov, reinterpreted by Christiane Jatahy. Today is Irina’s birthday, happening on the same day when, a year ago, her father died, and everyone is invited. The shooting cameras are also protagonists. There is juice, champagne, cake, snacks. The weight of the choice falls on me again:  I decided to sit in the centre of the audience to have a global perspective but this prevented me to access those treats.

E se elas fossem para Moscou? explores the border as free territory for the artist’s creation and for the observer’s personal interpretation: between theatre and film, actor and character, character and spectator, past and future, presence and absence, dream and truth, fiction and reality, expectation and disappointment. The diffuse membrane that separates both places allows a simultaneous relationship between collapse and continuity. This is the line of variable thickness – a tightrope? – in which Christiane Jatahy proposes our own reinvention. Because, unlike Maria’s dream, we do not have a second to fix the first one’s draft.

When this border is visible and two-dimensional, one wants to overcome it, like in Alice’s mirror. As a character, I was dancing on the party’s stage – actually, I was landlocked in the centre of the crowd, but I was doing it in my imagination and it wasn’t any less true – and I was wondering who would see me in the theatre’s screen, on the other side. Would it be possible to cross the screen and invade the other space? “How can we change it?” There, in the cinema, the glance was framed and the moments, which we cannot perceive in the theatre, are immortalized. There, in the theatre, as in life, we failed to be omnipresent, and everything was ephemerous.

Paradoxically or not, when Olga is asked to imagine an ideal world, she idealizes it without borders. It’s utopia. Unlike Chekov’s world, in which going to Moscow appears as a return to the place of childhood, here it means the promise of a new place, the expectation of change. But what will happen when “there is no mystery left?”.

E se elas fossem para Moscou? was on stage from 11 to 13 May, as the second play of a trilogy composed also by Julia, staged from 4 to 6 May, and by A Floresta que Anda (The Walking Forest), which will happen from 18 to 20 may, at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II. Christiane Jatahy, acknowledged as one of the most important artists of the contemporary theatrical reality, is the Artista na Cidade 2018 (Artist in the City) – an initiative of CML/Egeac. The whole program of her stay in Lisbon can be found here.

Zara Ferreira is an architect living in Alfama, Lisbon. She was a researcher in the EWV_Visões Cruzadas dos Mundos [Crossed Visions of the Worlds], collaborated with the architecture studio Tetractys Arquitectos and participated in the Portuguese representation at the 14th International Exhibition of Architecture, Venice Biennale, 2014, also as copy-editor of the Journal Homeland-News from Portugal. From 2014 to 2018, she was general-secretary of Docomomo International (the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement) and co-editor of Docomomo Journal. Between Lisbon (IST) and Lausanne (EPFL), she's currently developing her PhD on preservation strategies of housing sites after the post WWII in Europe. In the spare time she dedicates herself to travelling, theatre, writing, photography and whatever the destiny offers her.

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