Last week, Upper and Lower Sixth Spanish students were able to enjoy an authentic dose of Spanish culture in the heart of London. Founded two years ago in a small space in Southwark, The Cervantes Theatre is London’s first venue dedicated to showcasing Spanish and Latin American plays. It’s not just the culture that’s authentic either. This production of Ay Carmela! that the Harrodian group watched last week was performed in the original Spanish from Monday to Wednesday and in an English translation from Thursday to Saturday. On the night when we visited, the audience consisted of a mix of native Spanish families and A level students, making for an atmosphere that was both relaxed and intimate.
The play we saw, Ay Carmela! provides a real snapshot of late 20th Century Spanish literary culture. Written by José Sanchis Sinisterra in 1990, Ay Carmela! which takes its title from a popular revolutionary anthem of the 30s, looks back to the dark days when Franco’s nationalists were on the brink of defeating the republican forces. The play, which was also made into a popular film, was one of the first pieces of post-Franco theatre to bring humour to this grim subject. It follows the story of a trio of travelling players, Carmela, Paulino and Gustavete, who accidentally find themselves on the nationalist side as the war comes to its conclusion, treating their struggles to survive as an entertaining but very dark farce.
According to Alessandro, one of the students on the trip, their first visit to the Cervantes Theatre will definitely not be their last. ‘We did not know what to expect of Ay Carmela! but thoroughly enjoyed it,’ he said. ‘The acting was stupendous and hearing the play in the original language made the experience much more enjoyable. I was gripped throughout and it was great to see the characters of Carmela and Paulino develop as the play progressed. The intimacy of a space in which we were almost face to face with the actors made it all the more engaging. I can’t wait to go back to see another play next year!’
For more information about forthcoming Cervantes Theatre productions, click here
Credit: Onstage photograph: Elena Molina