Black Beach and Other Plays: Catalan Drama

With Catalan Days quickly approaching (the festival kicks off on Saturday with the Merce Rodoreda/Jessica Lange event at the Baryshnikov Arts Center) this seems like an appropriate time to mention Black Beach and Other Plays a collection of three works of contemporary Catalan drama by Jordi Coca, Joan Casas, and Lluisa Cunille, (and translated by Richard Thomson, Peter Bush, and Laura McGloughlin) published in English translation by Parthian Book (distributed in the U.S. by Dufour Editions).

I can’t imagine many works of Catalan drama are available in English translation, so this is a pretty unique publication. And the opening intro by Jordi Coca that provides a very interesting overview of the “minor renaissance” Catalan theatre is currently experiencing.

According to Coca, the big turning point came in 1976 with the availability of public funding for theatre. Prior to that there was a pretty diverse, exciting theatre scene, but it was primarily done “from the perspective of resistance” to the Franco regime, and was performed by “semi-professional companies.”

In the 1980s, the public funding let to the creation of numerous theatres, including the Drama Centre of Catalonia and the National Theatre of Catalonia. All of these outlets have lead to the vitality of the current scene, but according to Coca, the popularity of Catalan theatre comes with a price:

Such is the present state of play. Programming for public theatre is very conservative, very close to the interests of the commercial stage, and proceeds without any risk-taking from an aesthetic, dramatic or ideological point of view. We are therefore waiting for a new generation of English-style angry young men or women able to shake up today’s complacent and optimistic bourgeois outlook.

Nevertheless it would be wrong not to acknowledge that the consolidation of audiences and adaptation of programming policy to more conservative, insipid sensibilities has led to an increase in ticket sales and an increase in the strictly economic level of theatre business.

But that brings us to the three playwrights featured in this collection: Lluisa Cunille (“The Sale”), whose work is “rooted in Pinter;” Joan Casas (“Naked”), in whose work “the place where his characters find themselves is an abstract space subordinate to the interplay of ambiguities of time that form part of the project,” and Jordi Coca, whose “Black Beach” is “driven by a wish to rework the myth of Antigone.”

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