Versus

Kaaitheater

15/05 – 18:00
14, 16/05 – 20:30
ES > NL / FR

Versus: contra, against. The word neatly captures the cruel and merciless energy running through the theatre of Rodrigo García. Images set against an overload of images, bodies set against the standardised ideal body, words set against the dominant discourse. With Versus, the Madrid based Argentine director triggers a poetic explosion. A stack of torn, soiled, discarded books lies centre stage, while a screen spits out random images intended either to shatter or satisfy our perception of the world. What starts out as a discussion about pizzas can suddenly continue with a history lesson or a reference to Goya. Versus switches from flamenco singers to a post-punk band, from reflections on love to comments on the relation between humiliation and the economy. With this “gesamtkunstwerk”, García ponders the power of language when faced with the bulimia of consumption. “What are we to do: say what we think, withdraw, or take part? And what if our actions and efforts were in vain?”

Concept & direction
Rodrigo García

With
Patricia Álvarez, Amelia Díaz, Rubén Escamilla, Juan Loriente, Nuria Lloansi, Isabel Ojeda, David Pino, Daniel Romero, Víctor Vallejo

Light
Carlos Marqueríe

Technical direction
Roberto Cafaggini

Sound
Marc Romagosa

Costumes
Belén Montoliu

Animation
Cristina Busto

Video
Ramón Diago

Music
Chiquita y Chatarra,
David Pino, .tape.

Production management
Mónica Cofiño, Mariate García, Diego Lamas

Photography
Christian Berthelot

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater

Production
Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales (SECC)

With the participation of
Teatro de la Laboral (Gijón), Gobierno del Principado de Asturias

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Interview with Rodrigo García

Why have you chosen Versus as your title?
It's about fighting. Fighting from inside the system. It's a philosophical and poetic fight financed by public money. I financed my creations myself for ten years when I started out. Then, and up to now, I've used public money and grants like plenty of other artists do. That's why to start with my theatre was more poetic and more abstract - the work I did between 1989 and 2000. I didn't have to account to anyone. Then my theatre became more accessible. But now I think I made a mistake. Perhaps in terms of taking political action it was a lot more efficient to delve into the poetic and the obscure. At the end of the day, that's what's missing from today's society: boldness and uncertainty, mystery and poetry.

Right at the start of the show it says that everyone should say clearly and out loud what they are thinking or dreaming about without ever having dared do it or say it before. But it is also said that a theatrical work should basically hide things rather than reveal them or express our feelings. Which of the two does your theatre lean towards? What strategy does it employ in the face of this contradiction? Does it choose between the two or on the contrary is the idea not so much to choose one side or the other but to exploit the tension that arises between these two tendencies?
This tension always accompanies or at least ought always to accompany all our actions. What should we do? Act, say what we think, remain in the background or take a stand? Unless every action and every effort is empty and pointless. Are we speaking to improve something or just to be heard? Can we sum up speaking and acting on stage as just an egocentric act consisting of asserting ourselves? But we're human! And we believe in dialectics! But is it really about dialectics here? It seems to me that we talk far too much and it only produces minimal improvements in our everyday lives. People talk a lot in parliament, in the senate, in the supermarket, in theatres... but nothing is improving in everyday life. Perhaps because people are talking under the guise of consensus and moderation - two ideas I abhor, along with a good education which is doubtless the worst of all.

But this way of speaking in a show about the nature of the show itself and questions linked to the fact of expressing yourself on stage are quite new with you, aren't they? Isn't it also a way of addressing the audience to prepare them so that they have a better understanding of what's going to happen before their eyes?
In this creation, tender or even very gentle messages appear from time to time, but they have a background of bitterness to them. On the face of it, they hold out their hand, but they hold it out to lead you to a place of darkness and cold... A dark place where you have to create the right lighting so that these dark things become visible. Versus does not aspire to anything less than that: to attract the audience to a dark place with everyone then lighting up an area of this void in their own way; having everyone in the audience admit that everything can be reformulated from scratch and that while living by repeating what you've learnt is definitely easy, it's deadly boring and stupid.

Does this way of addressing the audience mean that they wouldn't necessarily understand what you're trying to say without it?
I'm not didactic. At any given moment, I say one thing and ten minutes later defend the opposite. The audience doesn't have to understand a work; the audience has to derive pleasure from it which is in the order of something poetic. They have to be prepared to dream, to follow their course, to decipher their own desires, to dissect, to weave, and at the end of the day confront a poetic work. Beuys' phrase that "everyone is an artist" has a very profound meaning and offers plenty of hope. I think that each of us has huge poetic potential that is sometimes lying dormant. For my part, I apply myself solely to inventing a particular theatrical calligraphy and I hope that the audience takes delight in deciphering it, and that in the process they encounter plenty of points in common with their own.

In this show there is also a dimension that has already appeared in your more recent creations which is almost like an intimate diary. There is a discourse in the first person. What is this discourse linked to? Who is talking in this show? Similarly the actors seem to be talking about their own story as well. What is it all about?
My method consists of creating a fiction, even when using the first person. Every time I realise that I'm in the middle of writing for a "character", I delete it. I can't do that. And when it comes to the actors, they're so good that you could say they're not following a script. Because it's as if they're in the middle of inventing it and that it's about their own experience. In fact it's nothing of the sort. In that sense it's a classic process: I write when I'm at home, then they learn the words and incorporate themselves into them. The advantage is that I know who I'm writing for. I know how they're going to say the words. In that sense I am a playwright. For all that, though, my words aren't an article of clothing tailor-made for each actor - that would sound awful, like a disguise, something superficial. No, my words have to inhabit the soul of each actor.

You've never spoken as much about love and death as you do in Versus. These are definitely evident themes, but at the same time difficult to deal with. Where does this sudden need to talk about love and death come from?
Perhaps it's my age. I'm 45, but in reality I'm younger now than when I was 18! When I was 18, I had the brain of a 70-year-old man! There's probably no subject that is messed around with more than love: in songs, in rubbish literature, in third-rate films... So why not talk about love from a perspective that is nihilistic and full of hope at the same time? We have a tendency to put other people in God's place. Then we realise that, like God, these other people don't exist. And we're disappointed. We think that other people don't exist, at least in the way we'd like them to. Each individual exists for himself. To believe that someone is going to devote a minute of his life to us in an unselfish way is a dangerous ideal. It only leads to disappointment. And from there to suicide.

Death and life appear in Versus in different ways. There's the image of the foetus at the start and also the actress who was pregnant in the premiere. So it begins with life, but death constantly intervenes throughout.
Actually in Versus I'm talking about living and dying in the clearest way. At the end of the show a professional comes on whose job is to apply make up to the dead. In death, man becomes an object. This object is going to disintegrate. It continues to be, even if that means being dead. But we know that he no longer exists (he is dead). Yet in his dead body he still has the memory and traces of being, which is terrifying.

The actress is no longer pregnant. Is she still in the show?
Yes, she's a mother now and very happy. She embarked on this project without realising she was pregnant. When she asked me if she should withdraw, I begged her not to do anything of the sort. The work is going to change now which is good because works are living things just like us.

People have been talking about the financial and economic crisis for months now. It's practically all anyone is talking about. Your theatre is known for its acerbic and profoundly ironic criticism of consumer society. What are your thoughts on this crisis?
I've always tried to clash with the kind of people who can now be said to be victims of the current crisis. People like me. Their lives go on and are of no interest to me because they continue to have ways out and find something to live on. If the crisis means no longer being able to go to a restaurant every week or not being able to buy a new car or having to watch what they're spending, it's of no interest to me. This crisis concerns people who are assured of living in a wonderful society. And they don't really matter to me. The people who interest me are the others, by this I mean the ones who have always been screwed. These people aren't suffering because of the crisis - these people get screwed their entire life.

Interview by Hugues le Tanneur
In the context of Festival d'Automne à Paris (13 September - 19 December 2009)

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Rodrigo García (°1964) was born in Buenos Aires. He is currently living and working in Spain. He is a writer, visual artist, stage designer and director, and is well-known for his highly physical and provocative theatre performances. In 1989 Rodrigo García founded La Carnicería Teatro, with which he created various experimental theatre performances. The company’s often wild and violent productions combine dance, music and performance with García’s provocative texts and innovative stage designs. His creations have been presented all across the globe, and his texts have been translated into various languages. For the projects Macbeth imagenes (1987), Reloj (1988), Notas de Cocina (1994) and El Padre (1994), García received some international prizes. In 2002 García and La Carnicería Teatro appeared at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts with their After Sun project. In 2009 he was awarded the Prix Europe Nouvelles Realités Théâtrales.

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