Confissões ou Uma Autobiografia Sem Factos, by Gustavo Antunes
Gustavo Antunes is an actor, performer, pedagogue, and researcher from Rio de Janeiro. Since 2014, he has been exploring his “concerns” in the performing arts through the techniques developed by Butô, Jerzy Grotowski and Zygmunt Molik. He creates and expresses himself through the body “working the memory and the imagination”, trying to live a “deeper reality”. On November 20, he premiered Confissões ou Uma Autobiografia Sem Factos at Lua Cheia – Casa do Coreto, a monologue he calls “theatrical performance”.
When we enter the performance venue, we notice that the action has already started. The scenic space is invigorated and in total silence. The silence is broken by the squeaking of Gustavo’s swinging chair, a dense and time-consuming movement that adds cumulative tension to the scene. The actor looks at the void, deeply concentrated. He begins to speak: “In these impressions without connection, nor desire for connection, I indifferently narrate my autobiography without facts, my lifeless story. They are my Confessions, and if I say nothing in them, it is because I have nothing to say”. As he speaks, he subtly pours the water from a jar towards the glass on a table. The glass fills up, but the water continues to be poured, wetting the table and the floor. The action is full of suspense, arousing the spectator’s curiosity. During the play, the energy of the scenic space is quite dramatic, the spectator’s perception oscillates between reality and fiction.
The dramaturgy of this play is based on fragments of Bernardo Soares’ The Book of Disquiet. Gustavo Antunes conceives his biography without facts from the questions and confessions of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronym, adding them to the research about who (or whose) the actor is. The biographies touch each other, approach each other, distance each other and get confused throughout the play. He describes this process using the verb to dance, saying that “he dances life”, his and “thousands of other incarnate ones”. Curiously, the verb to dance appears in the vocabulary of this investigative process into the actor. The use of dance-related vocabulary in theatre and vice versa is not new, but it is currently pivotal in the performing arts, since the contaminations between theatre and dance are constant. The performance can be seen as the combination of these two worlds: dance and theatre. The body is the common element shared in this relationship. Despite the differences in aesthetics and methods, the reflection on the body inhabits the same sphere of sensory and thought. Gustavo Antunes refers to himself as an “actor-performer”, stressing again the constant juxtapositions between the performing arts. For the actor, the performing body is a dialectic place between immanence and transcendence. In Confissões ou Uma Autobiografia Sem Factos, “he offers his body and spirit in an attempt to achieve communion, to transcend loneliness and to reveal the human being and his inconsistencies, his contradictions”. For him, the actor is like a “mirror where another human being (the spectator) recognizes himself”. He explains that it is not a question of seeking identification with “staged pain or joy”, but of “making a study of oneself in contact with that human being (the actor) in front of himself”. It’s an exercise in deconstruction, which divides the poetic self in two: the one who does and the one who observes. As the character says at some point: “Seeing me frees me from myself”. The actor, by being an actor, is simultaneously observing and living life – the constant consciousness between the outside and the inside. By exposing his “shadows” and the “unknown” of himself, Gustavo wants to “allow the viewer to confront himself” as well.
In Confissões ou Uma Autobiografia Sem Factos, the gesture and movement obey precise and well-designed actions. The choreography helps the actor to be in the present. Through physical actions (an expression created by Stanislavski and used in Grotowski’s physical theatre), the actor wants to express (or materialize) the body state and physical presence of Bernardo Soares, crossing his own imaginary, that is, the reference to the character’s states of mind comes from the memory and stories of the actor’s life. As it’s a monologue, the rhythm does not undergo major changes. The cadence is slow and dense, but there are moments of rupture. In them, the speed, the look, the density and the balance of the body change, stimulating the audience’s attention and providing images for the creation of meaning. Some of the questions of Confissões ou Uma Autobiografia Sem Factos are the duality of our feelings and the permanent restlessness of being. At the end of the play, we hear the character confiding: “I write this under the oppression of a boredom that does not seem to fit me, nor need anywhere else besides my soul (…) But I raise my head to the extraneous blue sky, expose my face to the unconsciously fresh wind, lowering my eyelids after having seen, forgetting my face after having felt. I don’t look better, but I look different. Seeing me frees me from myself. I almost smile, not because I can understand myself, but because, having become another, I can no longer understand myself. High up in the sky, like a visible nothing, a tiny cloud is a white forgetfulness of the whole universe”.