Festa de 15 Anos: Interview with Mickaël de Oliveira and Diego Bagagal

Mickaël de Oliveira is a playwright and artistic director. Diego Bagagal is an actor, director, and playwright. We talked about Festa de 15 Anos, Mickaël’s most recent creation, which debuted at Teatro Carlos Alberto on December 10.

Rodrigo FonsecaDuring the performance, we see director Simão Cayatte opting for specific shots to create a terrifying atmosphere. Can you talk a bit about this choice and the inspiration in horror cinema?

Mickaël de Oliveira – In the original project, the show had three hours. But during the work process, it was reduced to one hour and forty minutes. This change is caused by the impediment to doing more. Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it was impossible to create the cinematic language we wanted: to explore continuity through a realistic mimetic. In the middle of the trials, we made radical decisions. For example, making cinematic insertions. There was a connection with the stage and what was happening outside it. There was a bustling experience in the theatre, all the staff was quite busy. What we have is a deconstruction of the video itself. In Diego’s final monologue and throughout the play, we leapt from realistic fiction to thoroughly analyse this family. Where do we look? In what way do we look? What conclusion do we draw? On a cultural and theosophical level. In the end, the camera takes on another dimension and the cinema disappears – as Diego says in his monologue. At the end of the play, Diego talks about the film with a camera that has another function. A cameraman records (live) the rehearsal of the choreography that will be made at the party. He does it surgically, using close-ups and zooming in on the wounds of the characters’ bodies. Here, the camera puts itself out of fiction, becoming much more video than cinema.

Diego Bagagal – While talking to Mickaël, I shared my idea of making a show that would be a 15-year party. That year he travelled to Brazil, I received a birth certificate with dual nationality. It’s a very strange procedure. My first intuition in receiving this document was: now, as a Portuguese person, I will finally be able to officially apologize to the native peoples of Brazil – putting myself in this complex place of a person who does not even know his ancestry. This was the essence: the mixture of a 15-year party with an apology wrapped in total alienation. It became the most complex character because we do not know how to approach these issues… For the sake of some respect, some ethics. I participated in FLIP (Festival Internacional de Paraty) and one of the technicians who travelled with me was replaced by Rafael Fares, the official translator of Maxakali, an indigenous community that still exists in the hinterland of Minas Gerais. He gave me a book called Cura and it all made more sense. The Maxakali used this book to communicate to the doctors of SUS (Universal Health Service) what can and cannot be done with their bodies. This was the initial inspiration. The show does not talk about Maxakali. It is a first dialogue to make a decolonial co-creation. Without wanting to, we have suddenly returned to an indigenous philosophy, where everything is integrated in space-time, and where everything has a spirit and religion – religion in the sense of time, in a much broader place. I think the final monologue is that look at another time, which is also that time. It is something metaphysical, but very practical and theatrical. It is not exactly Brechtian, because the character remains… It’s more Shakespearean: a form of decolonial reparation through vengeance.

RF – Curiously, the premiere of this play happens shortly after the deaths of Bruno Candé and Ihor Homeniuk. Portugal lives quite poorly with its colonial past (which still has a heroic imaginary) and is lagging far behind in historical criticism and revisionism compared to other countries…

MO – Yes. Nobody mentioned the death of Ihor Homeniuk… What did they do? They added a panic button to the airport’s SEF department…

DB – In Portugal, whenever I enter a bathroom with this (long) hair, people think I am a woman. Once, at the locker room of a gym, I bent down to get the soap, and someone put their hand up my ass! It was horrible. Suddenly, your body in the feminine place acquires a perenniality. Of course, Brazil is the country that kills the highest number of LGBTQI people. But here we feel it more strongly because there is a very patriarchal culture. Everything is more hierarchical, even in the arts. Mickaël never disrespects me, but the differences in sexuality, in gender, in where he came from, in what he believes, in the way he studied theatre… It is important to think about these differences. The SEF… The lowest value of the Portuguese people is to try to step on what they consider to be minor. There is a will to exclude.

MO – Silent exclusion, nothing is said. In Portugal, it goes like this: shut up, we will exclude you, shut up and everything is fine. This is the Portuguese way of doing it. It is bizarre! And, concerning gender issues, during the man-woman-nothing conversation, we asked ourselves: how do we position ourselves and talk about it? We decided to complexify the gender. We don’t know, no one knows, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is to expose it. We are living in a moment where some questions are already emerging, we must apply them without asking further questions. If Diego didn’t participate, I wouldn’t be able to put on a show like this. During the writing of the dramaturgy, I spoke constantly with Diego because his place as a speaker is specific.

RF – Diego, how do you think this play will be received in Brazil?

DG – At first, I told Mickaël that this play would be incredible in Latin America. At a more advanced stage of writing, I told him that, as it is, we can’t dare to present the play in Brazil. The way the play is today, it’s possible. Not because it’s bad, quite the contrary! To deconstruct, we needed more time, and COVID helped us, gave us time that we didn’t have. I had some ethical questions during the work process… As Viveiros de Castro says: in Brazil, only those who don’t want to are not Indian. I am using a power: to be from Brazil, to use the Maxakali. The complexity of my character is erotic! My visit to that place happened because Albano felt attracted. It is simple: I wanted to fetishize. Although it was a colonial text, we did not want it to be a text that fed the concept of primitive. The play in Brazil can be well received, or we can be arrested! We’ll try to present it in Brazil. I would like it to be received as the first act of a decolonial dialogue: a dialogue between a Portuguese-French person and a Portuguese-Brazilian person. It is an act of love, a way out of colonial hate speech.

Rodrigo Fonseca (1995, Sintra). He studied at António Arroio, has a degree in History of Art and a master in Performing Arts from FCSH/UNL. He was co-founder of the publishing house CusCus Discus and of the festival Dia Aberto às Artes. Besides Umbigo magazine, he writes music criticism for Rimas e Batidas. He is a sound technician specialized in concerts and shows and resident artist at the cultural association DARC.

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