I remember our first meeting about the play.
José said: “This is a story of a young woman who was run over by a car. There are three lines: the reality, her hallucinations and her memories. And then imagine: someone cut the whole play into small pieces and threw into air like confetti. This is what we are going to play”.
“Vestido de Noiva” was written by a Brazilian dramatist Nelson Rodrigues and first staged in 1943. We adapted the initial script making it a bit shorter, because nowadays the audience can’t bear two hours of theatre. It’s directed by José António Barros and performed by the team of Teatro Metaphora, altogether more than 20 people. Some of the actors have impressive stage experience, some have appeared a couple of times, and for some (like me) it’s the first time – especially in other language.
Thanks god, I don’t have many words to say, so I have a chance to look at the play as an observer.
We started preparing more than a month ago, first with reading our lines.
The story is mesmerizing. There is a slight detective plot when the characters try to figure out what exactly happened, and it all is embedded in an intricate drama. When I read the story for the first time with a dictionary, I sympathized with Alaíde who was cheated on by her sister and then killed. But then she turned out not an angel herself and the story was much more than that.
He said: “If we decide to stage it, it’s going to be a suicide mission”. (Then in another voice) “But the story is worth it”.
During the preparation, to get the feeling on mystery and hallucination Sergio and I were watching the old TV series of “Twin Peaks”, if you know what I mean. Maybe it’s wrong to compare but the episode when the Dwarf in a red suit was dancing in Detective’s hallucinations in the room with red curtains – echoes with my role of a dançarina in a red dress in the hallucinations of Alaíde.
Oh yes, let me introduce myself. I am a dancer of a whorehouse, playing solitaire and ignoring most things happening around. This scene just like the whole play is chic. Some costumes are of a present time; some are of the early 20th century. They are elaborate, but the decoration – minimal. Everything happens in your imagination.
He said: “I know what will happen. Everything will be ready just before the curtain opens, not earlier”.
Actually it was ready. But minor accidents still happen now and then. The light didn’t work, someone forgot to appear on the stage; other on the contrary appeared with things which shouldn’t be there.
Other than that, it’s so surprising to discover that people you hang around with are such good actors; they inhale life in the characters from the pages. The tension is growing minute after minute and you don’t know – to break in hysterical laugh or tears.
Some invisible hand is pulling you to obscurity. Repetitions, allusions on other lines within the play itself; mixture of memories and hallucinations, then accidentally a strong light which drags a piece of reality when an newspaper reader in hair rollers is complaining loudly about reckless drivers; or the sound of medical instruments during the operation.
All that reminds of a forest, and someone is whispering to you from behind a tree. Then you hear a voice from another corner. And as you proceed to follow the voices – one more tree, over there, and one more – you accidentally find yourself in the middle of mystery and confusion not really understanding how you got there.
Besides, the story is so simple and so sinister at the same time. A girl stole a boyfriend from her sister, a drama as old as the universe. But on the other hand, adding some more details makes it evil in the end. An intimation of a treachery, a hint on a planned murder; a suggestion on an affair of Madame Clessi with a very young student who finally kills her. We might think – oh god, this is all so ill, so inhuman. But no, on the contrary – it’s all so human.
Not once we were having a drink with the cast and discussing what exactly happened to Alaíde.
I can’t guarantee that the audience understands. But one thing for sure – they definitely think about it. And this is what makes is art.
He said: “Collection of Nelson Rodrigues’ plays is my Bible. I read them all and gave marks (he was giving marks to Nelson Rodrigues?? Who he thinks he is?). If a play gets mark 7, it means it’s very good, really worth doing” – “And how much did “Vestido de Noiva” receive? – “10”.
I am very grateful for a chance to be a part of it.
And to have a sneak peek to José’s universe (because we all know he is not from our world).
And to learn from Nelson Rodrigues, one of the most outstanding playwrights, and his beautiful art.
Photos: Andriy Petryna, Art Photography Madeira