Outra Língua, by Keli Freitas, Raquel André, Tita Maravilha and Nádia Yracema.

Outra Língua is a performance-conference where performativity almost always relies on the word. With it, they can propose or imagine a linguistic intervention capable of changing the reality we inhabit. The script is by Keli Freitas, who shares the direction with Raquel André. The music is by Odete, the light design by Wilma Moutinho, the video by Afonso Sousa, the costumes by José António Tenente and the set by Elsa Romero and Saulo Santos. It premiered on May 26 in the studio of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II.

This play tackles the phenomenon of language, trying to understand its source and signification processes. It reflects its importance in all areas of our lives. Based on these questions, the performers develop a game of puns. The script constantly plays with words and plunges into the language system. Language is one of the most important instruments in our lives. In a conversation with Maria João Guardão (May, 2022), Kelli says that the “most serious, the most profound things and the most important decisions on the planet, which affect people directly, are decided through language.” Language is obviously a system of power. Language is always being used by politics to fulfil short-term or long-term goals. They can persuade and deceive us at specific moments, or distort and culturally manipulate the image and ideas we have about the world and its history. Language is the perfect tool to make the past the reason why we live in the present. The bullshit that Portugal discovered Brazil pertains to the imaginary formed and nurtured in several presents to alienate the identity and thinking of those who speak Portuguese from Portugal. Among these presents, the dictatorship of Salazar and Marcelo Caetano is the one where we can most easily identify this alienation, as it was where the Luso-tropicalism bogus was born. Fascism (all over the world) shaped mentalities and its representations of the world pass from generation to generation: and so, they continue to be fed. In Portugal, and all post-colonial countries, this process depends on the language.

In the same conversation, Raquel André raises the question of what is “that of speaking incorrectly?”. She adds that “we are taught the power of grammar, the power of being able to control a discourse”. As already mentioned here, language is an instrument and, like any other, its purpose is to be a means to accomplish something. Language is the instrument to create a discourse. Discourse in the primary sense, refers to the articulation of words. I am not qualifying the discourse formed by language. In that sense, it forms an innumerable constellation of discourses. Language executes discourse and grammar organises it. The organisation of grammar is different from the execution of discourse: the former is much more manipulable than the latter. Grammar is often dictatorial in articulating a discourse. But it is through grammar that we build understanding and places of communication. Otherwise, each person would speak their language. But these places and understandings have to be constantly updated. Otherwise, language ceases to be an instrument that executes (or gives place to) discourses and becomes an instrument that condenses and fossilises them. This performance shows well how language was, is and can continue to be instrumentalised. Language belongs to the public sphere, it is born and transformed with it. The language that is born in the academies or in the spheres of power, which was and continues to be violently applied, always loses out to the language of the streets and the public space. Whoever speaks the language defines it and the language of whoever speaks it defines linguistic conventions. This happens in every country. Institutions can never stabilise the way a language is spoken in a particular geography. 

This play’s script exposes the complexity of the Portuguese language, highlighting the historical, political and social context of those who speak it. The differences between these people are staggering. In some cases, I imagine they are so great that communication is impossible. During the performance, there is a constant juggling with the language’s pronunciations and accents. Most of the time in a provocative and comic way. Each of the performers gives a conference with a point of view, a question, a personal statement of their subjectivities. Besides the conferences, we see commercials and a talk show. A sense of humour underlies all the action, but not always with the same intensity. This feature emphasises what is said, as satire and humour establish an intimate relationship that encourages the viewer’s critical reflection. The scenic continuity of this narrative is non-linear. It combines various stories, sensibilities and ways of seeing the world. The construction of an inclusive and non-binary language is the most difficult shift to achieve in societies. Many people who consider themselves progressive, in favour of changes such as same-sex marriage or abortion, avoid this topic. It is considered a non-priority, a ridiculous or whimsical issue. But those who are unrepresented, who are scorned and violated on a daily basis, do not think this way. Those we put under the cloak of invisibility. This play does not want to be an activist and pamphleteering moment, where the audience repeats slogans and we dream together of a better world. The discourse’s sensibility is not whiny, but bold and vulnerable. Outra Língua asserts vulnerability as a place of beauty and encouragement: when we see the language’s vulnerabilities, we see the potential of the changes that can be born.

Outra Língua took place from May 26 to June 12 at the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II.

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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