The eloquent images of The Battle of the Absent, by the Spanish group La Zaranda

They arrived in Buenos Aires for the first time in 1985. After successful presentations at the Montevideo International Theater Festival, the Spanish group The Screen He ended up at the Recoleta Cultural Center and they did a few performances of his work Mariameneo Mariameneo. Since then, their visits have multiplied and they not only continued to conquer the local public, but on some occasions they also took their shows to other Argentine cities.

On different occasions they appeared in theaters such as Margarita Xirgu, San Martín, Cervantes, Picadero. The interest of the Buenos Aires public for his works remained intact. Each show at La Zaranda proposes to enter a dream field in which images multiply. Their stories seem small but the games proposed by the interpreters enhance them in such a way that they generate a real commotion.

The Spanish company has been working for 43 years. If at some point they described themselves as “Unstable Theater of Andalusia la Baja”, some time ago they decided to change that expression to “Unstable Theater from nowhere”. They are undoubtedly aware that their works not only express members of the community in which they originated, but also become extremely attractive in other territories.

The eloquent images of The Battle of the Absent, by the Spanish group La Zaranda

La Zaranda returns to Buenos Aires to present The battle of the absenthis latest creation, at the Teatro Regio, starting next Wednesday. According to them, they will appear on stage as “survivors of a war that nobody remembers, no matter how much they do not give up in their vain attempt to win a battle against oblivion, magnifying those skirmishes, mere ephemeris that nobody cares about. A metaphor of life as combat, where the three classic actors of Zaranda, its hard core, are the remains of an army in disarray, in this merciless war that has lasted more than 40 years. His language is his unmasted flag in a world that threatens the poetic sense of existence. Useless combat, which seems to be our cultural essence, the quixotic. Epic for three fakers, satire of all human power, dignity and faith as an act of resistance. Those were always their trenches.” With dramaturgy by Eusebio Colange, the show is performed by Francisco Sánchez, Gaspar Campuzano and Enrique Bustos. The address is from Paco from La Zaranda who, in dialogue with LA NACION, synthesized some aspects that make up the group’s work.

-You have been working in the same company for 43 years. Can you remember those first years, the aspects of those primary searches, the goals of making a theater that would provoke the public? A very different Spain, a very different world.

Remembering is recognizing yourself. Man’s great question before his destiny is the beginning of the theater itself. Wanting to make a theater that arose from the need to express what we are, what we feel. A living theatre, which, from the depths of us, went straight to the spectator’s soul, which invited reflection, which sought the tension between drama and life. A theater away from the fashions of the time, theater as an act of transgression aimed at meeting the human being with the absolute. In short, a theater where the important thing is the act of creating, not manufacturing artistic preserves. This and some other things were our premises. Difficult years, for those who, aside from what was marked from officialdom, tried to mix the laws of art with the chance of life.

–At the time when La Zaranda began its career, the so-called “new stage trends” (la Fura dels Baus, Els joglars) were widely promoted in your country. Some theaters with imprints very different from yours. However, La Zaranda managed to promote a particular emotion by reviewing history in a very eloquent way and without making a dramatic show. Why did that happen?

La Zaranda never sought to do anything new. Yes, make a theater driven by life: “the mystery”, “the magic”, “the memory” are the actors of that theater. One always has before him everything and has nothing. That is the mystery, and the ineffable of that mystery is magic. A mixture of illusion and reality, of what could have been and what happened, is what our memory contains. Perhaps our mission is to be sculptors of dreams, of ephemeral scenes that remain fixed in the viewer’s memory.

-In certain Latin American countries, La Zaranda has been and is a very important reference when it comes to talking about contemporary Spanish theater. What are the values ​​that you understand that in these territories make your projects so mobilizing?

– Difficult to answer. I have always felt that in many places in Latin America theater continues to be a necessity of the spirit. In the same way that the author, the director and the actor have to disappear for the work to take place, the spectator has to become a communicant, the theater is a great living heart that beats in the conscience of the human being.

In The Battle of the Absent, La Zaranda focuses on the war
In The Battle of the Absent, La Zaranda focuses on the war

-In The battle of the absent the theme is war (“a war that no one remembers”). How did the need to talk about this issue arise? Does the experience acquire a greater dimension today given that Ukraine is at war and greatly modifies the reality, especially economic, of the European world?

-The battle that is being waged is the battle that we all carry inside, we are our own enemies. War is always the same: it is our failure as human beings in the face of barbarism. The battle of the absent is a metaphor against everything and everyone; the war was already present in some of our works, for example in departed futures or in The scrapping of the muses –work that could not reach Argentina as a result of the epidemic–. At the end of this work we discovered a trench that is the starting point of this Battle. The war in Ukraine surprised us by doing a season at the Teatro Español in Madrid and of course it changed the public’s gaze, but we are not talking about any particular war.

–As in all the shows of La Zaranda, here too, surely, the contemporary being affected by a world that is increasingly chaotic and in which the experience of living becomes more challenging appears reflected. What values ​​are exposed in the work that account for this?

–Ramón Gaya used to say: “Reality is sacred not by itself, but because of what it hides from the divine”. Where all hope of human redemption has died, faith is born, that is the fundamental value. La Zaranda always questions, dives not only into the horizontal plane of life but into the vertical, into the ephemeral, into the fragility and transience of life, questions already posed in a certain way in the Spanish Golden Age.

-In the previous show, which was not seen in Buenos Aires, what was the theme on which they worked?

The scrapping of the muses it was an allegory of a propped-up culture awaiting its collapse, set in a gloomy den infested with rats, where a nucleus of isolated artists resist against the tide at the mercy of an age that renounces the poetic. The theater reduced to scrap, where each one is using the pieces that serve to endure in a technologically implacable world, increasingly noisy and less human. The work was inspired by an old (now non-existent) cabaret in Barcelona’s Chinatown.

-Few companies manage to stay active for four decades. How do you manage to continue together and always creating?

–I will never know how to answer that question, but I suppose that creation makes us remain in a priesthood where what matters is the other and forget about ourselves. Feel the theater as something sacred. I do not know.

The battle of the absent

Direction: Paco de La Zaranda

Royal Theater, Cordoba 6056

Wednesday to Sunday, at 20.

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