For the first time in its thirty year history, the annual Edinburgh University Spanish play has changed hands from the Spanish department to the Spanish Society, bringing with it new ambitions and approaches for the 2019 performance, this year’s being a production of Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s Luces de Bohemia (Bohemian Lights). Sitting down with two of the play’s three directors, Devian Maside and Aitana Garcia, was both informative and engaging, stirring up an intrigue and excitement to see their vision come to life. Despite not having much experience to their names, the directors took the bull by the horns upon seeing an online call for people to get involved with the production. For Aitana, watching last year’s “very touching” rendition of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre was the “exciting moment” when she decided that she wanted to get involved in this year’s production.
Luges de Bohemia is set in 1920s Madrid and follows Max Estrella, a blind poet on his final day of life as he wanders around a city mired in great political and social unrest. It’s an archetypal play of the esperpento literary style, a genre that draws out the absurdity of reality as a means of criticising the society which engulfs us, marked by its use of the grotesque and bitter irony. Devian enthuses about its unique style and shares his delight in being able to direct a play that, for him, has played an important role in his life.
“Long story short it’s a play that has been a big part of my life,” tells Devian. “I studied it in depth in high school so being able to do this play is a dream, I’d never have expected to get the chance to direct it at university.” For Aitana, the directing process has been more than merely reproducing a work from their home country, removing numerous parts of the play specific to 1920s Madrid with the aim of making it a more conceptual experience for the audience. “I feel there has been a very symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the reflections that the play makes on the human condition. What is important for us is to really capture both the absurdity of Max Estrella’s existence and the beauty of this absurdity. Even though it can sometimes be the most painful thing it can be the most beautiful.”
“We are three people with three super big interior worlds,” adds Devian of the trio of directors. “Each of us has our own vision of the play which we have put together to show that el esperpento is not only about Spain in the 1920s: it’s about everyone of us living in a world that forces us to be absurd.” Devian draws parallels between the themes of the play and craziness and uncertainty that runs rife in Britain today, stressing the importance of reproducing such a play that, although profoundly relevant, would otherwise remain hidden in the realms of the Spanish literary canon.
The combination of both native and non-native Spanish speakers within the cast has proved to be both a challenge and a pleasure for the directors. Aitana and Devian mention their efforts to convey the Spanish reality particularly to the non-native actors, who, according to the duo, have really embraced their roles. Despite a last-minute cast reshuffle posing a further difficulty, the directors express the collective effort of the whole team to come together that has made the experience “all the more worthwhile”.
Their ambition and enthusiasm in having developed the production is evident — they only hope audiences are as invested and intrigued in the work as they are. “There is a lot to take out of this play if you are engaged in the moment. It’s super pretentious but I’d love audiences to come out feeling some sort of an interior cause” divulges Aitana. As for Devian, he shares his desire for people to just “go out and take a book out of the library and learn more about [Valle-Inclán’s] work […] I’d love to shake someone’s world having watched the play but I understand that it’s difficult in the hour-and-a-half we’ve got. It’s taken me years to understand this play but I’d love to at least contribute to the demystification of what Spain and the Spanish image is.”
Luces de Bohemia
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