The Madrid International Autumn Festival has now been moved back in time and is taking place in spring; the festival's new name reflects it: Festival de Otoño en Primavera or 'Autumn Festival in Spring'. This is Spain's largest and oldest celebration of theatre, music, dance and circus.
The move to spring is possibly the result of the 'globalisation' of the world's theatre festivals. It is hardly a secret that the strongest new works tour most of Europe's biggest festivals: you can catch them in Amsterdam, Athens, Paris and elsewhere. By late autumn, which used to be when Madrid's Festival de Otoño came along, some of the novelty had worn off and the big pieces just were not enough to get people to travel all the way to Madrid to see them.
The programme of this year's Festival de Otoño comprises thirty-two different works, featuring some truly great world-class artists; they include the alchemist of Canadian theatre Robert Lepage with his latest production, the first part of a new trilogy: Playing Cards 1: Spades; the most distinctive phenomenon of the British theatre Simon McBurney with his stage version of Mikhail Bulgakov's phantasmagorical The Master and Margarita, a production of the Complicité theatre company; the precision mechanic of French human studies Patrice Chéreau with his latest piece entitled Coma. This magnificent threesome alone is worth going out of your way to visit Madrid.
The highlights of the festival programme includes a number of works by some even more legendary names, for instance, Peter Brook's Suit, brought by the 86-year old 'Socrates of the British theatre' from Paris. It is an example of the radical simplicity arrived at by one of the most significant directors of the 20th century in this stage of his artistic maturity.
La vida crónica or The Chronic Life, the latest production by the theatre anthropologist Eugenio Barba, is created in a futuristic key. The piece is set in 2031, in the aftermath of World War Three. His now Denmark-based theatre laboratory, founded in the 1960s in Oslo, named itself after the Norse god of war, victory, wisdom and poetry: Odin Teatret. Aware of the 20th century as a time permeated by bloody violence, the theatre laboratory set itself the task of exploring the destructive power of the human through theatre. Just like our forefathers tried to overpower their demons by driving them away through collective ceremonies, so do we, viewers and actors, gather to drag out into the bright daylight all the dark forces dormant inside us and render them harmless. The battle against these 'other forces' locked inside us is an instrument of deeper self-knowledge - words to this effect were said by the great Italian director and writer Eugenio Barba, Grotowski's student and explorer of the different ways in which people hailing from different cultures tend to express themselves. According to Barba, his theatre is not interested in entertaining or throwing around clever theses. What it is interested in is simply asking questions to which everybody has to find their own answers.
Photo: PLAYING CARDS 1: SPADES (JUEGO DE CARTAS 1: PICAS)
Keywords: Madrid, festival