Thursday, April 11, 2013

EL PAIS. "There´s Carmela".


Fictional characters often end up having one or more parallel lives: Romeo and Juliet's love ends up well in Lope de Vega's version of the Italian classic which the Spanish playwright called "Castelvines y Monteses," for example. In Heiner Muller's "Hamletmachine," Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, strolls around today's Europe, and in Gianina Braschi's dramatic novel, "United States of Banana," based on Hamletmachine and published after the 9-11, Segismuno is taken prisoner, while Figaro -carried by Mozart's music- has been resurrected several times...

In our story, variety performers Carmela and Paulino, say ciao to daddy Sanchis Sinisterra -playwright and writer of the original work: "Ay Carmela"- and resume their journey through different scenarios (although the ending is the same) in this stimulating, amusing and, at times, touching musical version of Ay Carmela, written by José Luis García Sánchez and directed by Andrés Lima. Both have surveyed, extracted and adapted the original work drawing on the almost poisonous, comedy-like elements (female dancers, popular music and Spanish folk singing) from the original play written by Sinisterra.

The confrontation with the void or empty space which Sinisterra envisaged in this case is backed by a chorus and counterpointed by a solitary mistress of ceremonies, a sort of Joel Grey who turns into a vivacious Spanish replica of the soldier Galy Gay when Paulino and Carmela start dancing. Lima and García Sánchez mutate into a medium-sized show the intimate meta-theatrical elements (comedy & tragedy) of the playwright from Valencia, without distorting the work's core.

Ay, Carmela!

Based on the original work by Sanchis Sinisterra.

Version: José Luis García Sánchez.

Cast: Inma Cuesta, Javier Gutiérrez, Marta Ribera, Javier Navares, Álvaro Morte, Pablo Raya, Javier Enguix and Sagra Mielgo. Choreography: Teresa Nieto.

Light & audiovisuals: Valentín Álvarez. Scenography & wardrobe: Beatriz San Juan. Music: Joan Valent. Directed by Andrés Lima. Teatro Reina Victoria.

The abridgement of the text, or its distribution amongst a diversity of voices, suits this musical version of "Ay, Carmela," brilliantly decorated by the dreamy scenography of Beatriz San Juan and livened up by the popular songs that have been added as well as the occasional one expressly composed for the show. These in addition to the impressive documentary images screened at relevant moments throughout: It is often painful to watch Spaniards escaping from the sea of flames caused by the German bombardments.

Inma Cuesta, in her role as Carmela, slim, charming and delightful thanks to her genuine Andalusia accent, has a pretty, melodic voice and is served new songs by Pedro Guerra, Victor Manuel and Vanesa Martín. These suit her better than "Yo te diré," although I prefer her performance in "Café de chinitas" and "Yo reparto besos," where her magic comes out. Javier Gutiérrez makes a wonderful couple with her. Their chemistry and talent shine in the many scenes in which they appear alone.

But the driving force of the musical is Marta Ribera, an actress who can sing anything, play any role, dance as much as she wants and dazzles the audience. "Who is that bomb?" the public asked at the end of the show. Well, the answer is that she is someone who has performed great feats but never appears on the boob tube (TV).

Marvelously directed and performed; the harmonious duel between the Republican and the Fascist factions excels as does the brilliant metaphors of the inequalities (in the numbers & strength) of the battling troops and the whole final part of a show with some imbalances but which leaves the public with a good taste in their mouth.