A couple of weeks ago Anthony Fletcher got in contact with PP to say he was going to see Mike Bartlett’s CONTRACTIONS in Montevideo, Uruguay and would we like to hear how it is received. Following our intrigue from LOVE, LOVE, LOVE in Argentina we were all pretty excited to hear what the production was like and how it went down and Anthony has very kindly written us a guest blog all about it:
Mario Ferreira has recently finished his second stint as Artistic Director of the Comedia Nacional, Uruguay’s National Theatre. He is an unabashed fan of British writing. He is also, like many Uruguayan directors, on a constant search for new plays and playwrights. At the end of last year he stumbled across the work of Mike Bartlett. Cock had already been performed in Buenos Aires, but he came across a translation of Contractions. The play grabbed him, immediately. He took it to the city’s second largest theatre, El Galpon, and they agreed to stage it.
Bartlett is not the only British author whose work is currently being staged at El Galpon. Another recent hit was Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, which won numerous awards. Perhaps less surprisingly, plays by Ayckbourn and Pinter have also been recently staged. But El Galpon is only one of the city’s many theatres. Montevideo, a city of 1.5 million inhabitants, apparently has more theatres per capita than Paris. An eclectic range of writers, South American, European and beyond are staged, but the British have staked a large claim. In January you could pick and choose from Bartlett, Leigh, Pinter, Caryl Churchill. Last year Blackbird by David Harrower was a surprise hit, and the Comedia staged the first Latin American production of Simon Stephens’ Harper Regan.
There are several reasons for this British success. Various local writers have attended the Royal Court’s international program, others have worked with Stephens at Sala Beckett in Barcelona. The legacy of both Pinter and Ayckbourn is also strong. But Mario ascribes it to the quality of the writing. He suggests that British writers have a capacity to create narratives that succeed in speaking about the way people live today, engaging with the modern world, in a humane and surprising fashion. Contractions, with its twisted view of the modern workplace, being a case in point. He views Bartlett’s office-bound play as a metaphor for the way in which the modern world is constantly demanding we make compromises in order to obtain something (ie a standard of living) which is not as beneficial as it first appears.
The fact that Bartlett’s play can translate so effortlessly and with such resonance to a culture so distinct from the UK reflects the way drama can cross borders within a globalised world. In a theatre-crazy city, the appetite of British writers to create narratives which reflect the contemporary human condition shines through.