Heading Against the Wall – Interview with André Godinho
André Godinho is a film director and has worked for over ten years with the Cão Solteiro theatre company. We talked about Heading Against the Wall, the latest show within the Cão Solteiro & André Godinho collaboration, which premiered on November 13 at Lux Frágil. The streaming version was available the following weekend.
Rodrigo Fonseca – In an interview, you say that theatre can be unpredictable, whereas the composition and language of cinema are more mediated. This unpredictability comes from the ephemerality of the performing arts, since it is an action closer to emptiness, to a whole. But cinema succeeds more easily in placing us in the universal, true, real. Do you and Cão seek to add the unpredictability and ephemerality of the performing arts to cinema?
André Godinho – Yes, I think so. In our shows, we try to think of cinema and theatre as one single object. The basis is the idea of building a performance that can be a bit of both, and, in that sense, there is always a question: how does the theatre deal with reality? What is real and what is fiction? How does cinema deal with reality? These questions were something we worked on again in this show.
On stage are three actors who answer several questions. The questions are not heard, but the answers are. The answers are improvisations from things that happened to them or simply made-up. We never know what is real or what is fictional. The questions are drawn during the show. The actors don’t know what question they will have to answer, which means that the whole show is unpredictable. They don’t know what they will answer, and they answer stuff that has to do with memories, without anyone really knowing whether they are real or fictional. This show was born during the lockdown, in a moment when we didn’t know the theaters’ future. We thought about premiering the show via streaming and, at a certain point, we realized that the theatres would open doors again. However, we kept the idea of streaming it and built two objects: a live show and an online show – which is not a recording of the live show, but a different version.
RF – Why is impossibility the first step in your creative process? Does this impossibility come from doubting/questioning or from the realm of fantasy?
AG – I think Cão Solteiro always questions what theatre is. When working with Cão, questions like “if the show has no text, is it still theatre? If it has no actors, is it still theatre?” began to fill my thoughts. Cão always questions what theatre is, and, basically, it’s only theatre because Cão Solteiro is a theatre company!
RF – In the synopsis of Heading Against the Wall, we read that “it may be unwise to accept that proximity guarantees any kind of intimacy.” If proximity does not guarantee us any kind of intimacy, what does?
AG – I think it’s related to the fact that we started conceiving the show during the quarantine. Suddenly, people were isolated in their homes, each in their own world, and communicating as we are doing now (laughs), through Zoom! But there’s one thing Zoom has… We see a person always in a medium shot, in a close-up, we are close to them, there is a sort of intimacy. We started watching some shows on streaming, several things that appeared on Zoom. But it’s a constructed intimacy: we just show what we want. That was the starting point. The way the actors answer questions seems totally free and intimate, but it’s completely constructed, the fiction and the real are always at stake.
RF – I heard some audios from Heading Against the Wall. They are a set of speculative narratives, sometimes delirious, but at the same time have a documentary, biographical and scientific side.
AG – Exactly. The most scientific part of the text was found by Mariana Sá Nogueira. She selected the parts used in the play, associated with the costumes. The actors are always changing their t-shirts, as if the act of changing is a kind of scientific experiment. The way the other answers (the other parts of the text) emerged came from several questions. The actors were answering and we were inventing rules. The text is never stagnant, it is and always has been under construction.
RF – How do you see the future of artistic culture and production? We all have less money in our wallets, and we don’t expect improvements soon. How do we get out of this?
AG – Well, I don’t know (laughs)! I think things have changed a lot and we may have to rethink the way performances are organized. We must keep adapting. In other words, there’s no point in continuing to do things as if the world isn’t changing! And I think Cão is fully aware of that. The shows don’t have political content, but they are political… In their content (laughs). They don’t talk about politics, but they are absolutely political. It’s a company always attentive to what’s happening. When we started exchanging ideas during the quarantine, we thought: we don’t want to make a show about the pandemic! But there are several issues that, as we reflect on the dynamics of virtual communication, relate to the pandemic. Although the show never mentions the pandemic, it is present.
RF – It’s the context where the show was conceived.
AG – Of course. This show had a quite different starting point. The title Heading Against the Wall comes from the initial idea of doing a show about censorship, a consequence of the film La Tête Contre les Murs by Georges Franju. I saw a censored copy of this film and started thinking about the concept of censorship. We left everything out, but the title Heading Against the Wall remained. It is a title where I see two interpretations: 1) constantly “banging my head against the walls”; 2) the idea that the wall “won’t stop me”, I go against the wall to break it! I can break my head, but I’ll break the wall too! It has to do with that, with trying to keep breaking the walls.