WYP Catalonia Project Counters British 'Xenophobia'Date: 2 February 2004
The upcoming stage adaptation of Homage to Catalonia, based on George Orwell’s 1938 book about the Spanish Civil War, is an ideal example of “the way we (in British theatre) need to be working in the future”, according to its British collaborators at West Yorkshire Playhouse and northern stage company, who are co-producing the premiere with Theatre Romea and the Forum Barcelona arts festival in Spain and MC93 Bobigny in France.
Rehearsals start tomorrow in Leeds for the bi-lingual production performed by a ten-strong company comprising five Catalan and five British actors. The project has already been more than 12 months in preparation, with much time spent overcoming language difficulties between the respective Catalan and British dramaturges, Pablo Ley and Allan Baker. Homage to Catalonia will open first at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, running from 15 March to 3 April 2004, before travelling to Paris, Newcastle and Barcelona.
At a press conference held today in London, northern stage artistic director Alan Lyddiard lamented the fact that British artists weren’t more open to international collaborations. “We’re xenophobic, we’re frightened of Europeans in this country,” he declared, but “now is the time for us to be involved in Europe.” Next year, said Lyddiard, building begins in Newcastle, home of northern stage, on an arts centre dedicated to showcasing the best European offerings.
Controversial Catalan director Calixto Bieito explained the significance of Homage to Catalonia in Spain, saying that people didn’t speak publicly about the 1936 Civil War, but in the years after Franco’s death, maintained a “polite silence”. He said: “Everybody in Spain was trying to forget, to escape the memories of a horrible war and a terrible tyranny that lasted for 40 years.”
Despite the ground-breaking nature of the production, anyone expecting to see Bieito’s notorious signature on the piece may be disappointed. Homage to Catalonia is being directed by fellow Spaniard Josep Galindo rather than Theatre Romea’s outspoken artistic director. Speaking today, Bieito said: “I am not the director. I do not know if this production will be controversial. I hope it will be, but there will be no necrophilia, none of these things.”
Bieito and Theatre Romea caused London headlines last year with its reinvention of Macbeth, including graphic scenes of oral sex, necrophilia and excessive gore (See News, 8 Apr 2003). His other controversial productions have included Life Is a Dream and, at this year's Edinburgh Festival, Hamlet, as well as the operas A Masked Ball and Don Giovanni for ENO.
An intimate memoir, Homage to Catalonia captures Orwell's front line experiences while fighting for the loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, an era which permanently shaped his political beliefs.
- by Terri Paddock