The Avesso festival was created by the Avesso Association, in 2014, by a group of people connected to the arts, coming from Ponta do Sol, when Madeira still had little cultural offer. With the support of the Regional Directorate of Culture, the local municipality and various public and private institutions, this structure develops a vast cultural programme, which greatly contributes to attracting audiences from the other municipalities of this Autonomous Region and whose objective is to promote the national and international circulation of artistic projects.
Thus was created the Teatro do Avesso, as well as a Portuguese revue project the Avesso Convida. The association also promotes other training initiatives in singing and theatre with children and young people, which aim to raise awareness and develop the public through creations with community involvement (from schools and families) every weekend. And it was in this context of great artistic productivity that we were able to watch two theatre performances, among the various events that were part of the programme of this festival.
In Nos Tempos de Gungunhana was one of them. It is a performance based on African community theatre. The text comes from the book Ualalapi, by the Mozambican writer Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, and relates a sequence of parallel episodes in the life of the Mozambican king Gungunhana. A performance by a single actor (and author) Klemente Tsamba, who crosses physical theatre and orality in a fluid interpretation of remarkable authenticity as a narrator, in the manner of the oral tradition of storytelling. The linear time of an epoch is involved in the fantastic time of fable and mysticism, to the point that we witness a small magic ceremony that evokes ancestral culture. The dynamic of constant transformation of this actor, who doubles up as one of Gungunhana’s wives, is of a very involving expressiveness and the continuous request of the audience to participate in the stories, always in a tone of provocation, gives this narrative and interpretation a lived and integrated aspect of the historical time and tradition, with the participation of this community which is the audience. The protagonist whispers, models his voice, plays an instrument, and we too become part of the world of this karingana (traditional Mozambican tale).
Another show we were able to watch was Má Sorte, Sofia Berberan and Cátia Terrinca’s adaptation/scenic version of John Ford’s text Má Sorte Ter Sido Puta (translated by Cucha Carvalheiro) and directed by Paulo Lage. We are witness to a contemporary tragedy, in classical moulds, whose dialogue between the two protagonists (in the good interpretations by Cátia Terrinca in the role of Anabela and Pedro Manana in the role of Giovanni) is articulated in a medieval tone, but in which the physicality of the interpretation, in contrast, is stripped down and without great artifice. The entrance and exit of the actors from the epicentre of the action is done through the transposition of an acrylic panel that occupies the back of the stage, in a brilliant staging strategy, which is one of the strongest moments we witness. In that scenic division of space another dimension of existence is proposed, the oneiric, which, when crossed, leads us to witness that tragic act committed at the scene’s mouth so that, once it is over, the protagonists are once again welcomed behind that transparent panel, where there is no longer room for the final judgement. There, Anabela and Giovanni, the brother-lovers, dance in an unbridled way the freedom of their beliefs and desires, in the place where only souls are allowed to dance. Closer, next to us mortals, the actors stand face to face, balanced on top of some thin wooden structures set into the ground, like a subtle boundary marking between two lovers whose love is forbidden. In front of them, we see knives hanging by rubber bands in constant tension, which their characters take turns grabbing…until the dagger thrown from one lover to the other increases the tension in the room. The spoken text makes use of repetition, as if it were necessary to confirm each movement and thus emphasise the gravity of that classic and labyrinthine theme that is incest. Giovanni justifies it by saying: “(…) Should conventions, frivolous words like brother and sister put up barriers between me and my happiness? (…) Are we not by nature itself more united? Should not religion bind us in one soul? In one flesh? In one love? In one heart?” for the lovers’ guilt, for their penalty and for the only outcome that seemed possible, death.
In this show, the contrast between Bruno Caracol’s minimalist scenery, Paulo Lage’s raw and direct staging and John Ford’s period language, serves as a trigger and provocation for us to examine, and also judge, what is at stake in the plot. In a timeless way, we are asked to awaken sleeping themes from antiquity and mythology, such as incest and interdiction, and to raise new questions about love, conventions and social pressure, in a quest that questions the foundations and the limits of our morality. In a festival like Avesso there is also room for Stand-up Comedy style humour. Pedro Tochas, with the show Descobrimentos, shares the daily discoveries of a 50 year old man, his own “discoveries”, grabbing the audience in the first handful of jokes, as the identification of the audience with the artist was practically immediate. Just as the children’s universe was not left out, with the show Piquenique de Histórias, performed by Natália Bonito and Vítor Oliveira based on the reading of books by the author Eric Carle.
What is to be praised about this festival is the diversity of its cultural offer which translates, as far as the performing arts are concerned, into the diversity of the style of the shows presented, as we could see, which is fundamental for the formation of audiences and critical mass. O Avesso has the support of DGArtes, Ministry of Culture Portugal.
No Tempo de Gungunhana – Credits:
Creation/interpretation: Klemente Tsamba; Original texts: Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa; Creative support/assistance: Filipa Figueiredo, Paulo Cintrão and Ricardo Karitsis; Props and Costumes: Klemente Tsamba; Photography: Margareth Leite and Danilo Ferarra; Light and Sound Operation – Rita Heleno Duration: 60 min; Over 16 years old.
Technical Details of Má Sorte:
Má Sorte“, from “Bad Luck To Have Been A Whore”, John Ford.
Co-production between: Buzico!Produções, UmColetivo and CAE Portalegre.
Technical and Artistic Team:
Directing- Paulo Lage.
Directing Assistance- Haroldo Ferrari
Production – Duarte Nuno Vasconcellos
Production Assistant – Raquel Pedro
Stage Version- Cátia Terrinca and Sofia Berberan. From the translation by Cucha Carvalheiro.
Interpretation- Cátia Terrinca and Pedro Manana.
Set design- Bruno Caracol.
Costumes- Mónica Cunha e Olga Amorim.
Light Design- João P Nunes.
Sound Design- Frederico Pereira.
Design- David Costa.
Publicity Photography – Leandro Fernandes.
This show is supported by DGArtes.
The show has 1 hour duration and is rated M/16.