Teatro Naranjazul (Mexico, France): Mundo lunaticus
6th July 2017, Ljubljana, Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival, 2017
The article is a part of my highlights of 2017 Ana Desetnica festival.
Teatro Naranjazul’s story driven Mundo Lunaticus tackles the sensitive theme of immigration in the postcolonial world inside a fitting environment of a public space. Aarón Govea presents his character as an indigenous immigrant from Latin America to a first world country, where he’s forced to deal with questions of acceptance by the local population, freedom of movement and bureaucratic obstacles underlined by latent racism. In this “me against the world” scenario the show contrasts three different types of scenes: those focused on “me”, those focused on “the world”, and the third type, connecting both and pushing the narrative forward.
As he cracks whips seemingly dangerously close to the audience, the protagonist becomes in the process akin the image of fear projected upon him.
“Me” scenes establish slowly unfolding poetic pictures using dance and juggling to create impressions of protagonist’s inner world and imagination – like in the opening scene where Aarón juggles his luggage before leaving, creating an image of longing and uncertainty. Contrasted against gentle “how I see myself” scenes are confrontational situations of “how other see me”, where the audience is put into the position of first world citizens, viewing the immigrant with suspicion. In these the tension can be tangible, as in the scene where Aarón juggles with two whips, bare chested, in defiance of the society around him, creating a menacing picture of a repressed individual wanting to strike back. As he cracks whips seemingly dangerously close to the audience, the protagonist becomes in the process akin the image of fear projected upon him. This antagonism gets ramped up in a short exchange with the audience where the performer mimics an angry monkey, becoming the caricature, his environment sees him as. These two types of scenes are static, picturing protagonist from a certain point of view – inner or outer. Thus, a third type of scene is needed to progress the story onwards, where our protagonist engages with other characters, mostly of bureaucratic nature, all of them played by Maud Giboudeau.
“Mundo Lunaticus” uses a strong visual code to create a stylized, poetic world each spectator is invited to travel along the path of their associations evoked by the visual style, the atmosphere, the lyrical choreographic scenes and fill in the blanks with their own imagination.
While each of these three different scene types asks for a different kind of audience’s involvement, all of them would be a better fit for enclosed theatre situations than the open street environment. For the audience to be able to follow the performance, the most crucial scenes are those driving the story forward, but the vital information is spoken, not shown. It is often uttered too quietly and without repetitions and gets lost in the urban noise. (The performance’s first showing at Ana Desetnica was at an early slot on an open street, with many young children in attendance. Not being able to understand the plot, noticeable number of spectators left before the end of the show.) Both authors later revealed to me that while the performance was made for both indoors and the street, it was mostly, so far, performed indoors – not necessarily in the black box, could also be courtyards, halls. It does makes sense the poetic potential of Mundo Lunaticus would prosper in the site-specific situation, not only because an enclosed space would make the spoken parts easy to follow, but also as a specific architectural backdrop could enrich the visual atmosphere of the piece. Mundo Lunaticus uses a strong visual code – Aarón’s clothes and all the props are grey – to create a stylized, poetic world; perhaps creating a metaphor for the protagonist’s existential situation, perhaps alluding to aesthetics of black-and-white films? Each spectator is invited to travel along the path of their associations evoked by the visual style, the atmosphere, the lyrical choreographic scenes and fill in the blanks with their own imagination. Enclosed performing space makes this this type of audience investment easier, while a site-specific location could add material to it, enriching possible meanings and images. I was told this is exactly what happened at Mundo Lunaticus’ second Ana Desetnica showing at a later evening slot, in a city centre underpass – formerly populated with small shops, now mostly deserted. Within this site-specific enclosed space, the performance could develop its potential as the reports of passers-by joining the audience during the show confirmed.
The question for the authors is how to proceed: develop the show as an indoor/site-specific performance only, transform it into a show better adapted to a street environment, or to create two different versions? The main challenge in how to make this show’s potential work in the street situation is finding a way to convey the narrative to the audience and guide them along the story line. I’ll allow myself to offer some dramaturgic suggestions from approaches I’ve seen in other street performances. The simplest option would be to merely amplify the spoken word (microphone, pre-recorded speech), maybe also repeat the crucial information so everybody hears it. Another approach would be in finding a way to embody this information – by using gesticulation, props, costumes. Going along this path, it would help to flesh out the role of the second performer, Maud Giboudeau, in each scene. Aside from the scene with her as the white winged angel asking for a passport, her costumes and character could be more pronounced, highlighting those elements that convey crucial information for following the narrative. These suggestions aim at strengthening the relation between the performance and the audience, to then use this connection to drive the story forward. But I see also a different option, one of strengthening the isolation between the show and the street to try to make the performance work close to how it does indoors. By for instance pronouncing the music and weakening the narrative, the poetic side of the show could come to the fore, with strong atmosphere, music, and mosaic-like structure in which spectators can find their own path through associations that emerge in their minds, without the need to follow the whole story though.
With its ambitious tackling of the issue of immigration, using poetic approach to highlight immigrant’s personality and hopes, while not shying away from direct confrontation, “Mundo Lunaticus” offers sympathy for situation it portrays and gives the audience space to think it over.
Mundo Lunaticus, in its street theatre version, appears to be still at the beginning of its artistic journey and I expect it will develop with more touring – its currently fragmented structure becoming more integrated, transitions becoming smoother. The show’s strengths lie in its poetic presentation of the protagonist’s inner world, which doesn’t only engage the audience’s imagination, but gives power to those repressed by society’s regimes. With its ambitious tackling of the issue of immigration, using poetic approach to highlight immigrant’s personality and hopes, while not shying away from direct confrontation, Mundo Lunaticus offers sympathy for situation it portrays and gives the audience space to think it over.
Samo Oleami, September 2017, re-edited August 2018
Photos: Luka Dakskobler
Trailer – indoor version