Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Woman of Words: El Diccionario by Manuel Calzada Perez at Greenwood Theatre, Weston Street

I always like going to a new fringe theatre, especially one that’s easy to get to. The Greenwood Theatre is a five minute walk from London Bridge Station, off St Thomas Street. It was rare opportunity to see a play in Spanish -  the notice  relayed via the Cervantes Institute mailing list.

As the lecture theatre slowly filled, it was a treat for me to hear Spanish being spoken all around me.
'Language is no longer a communication link between people and words are too generalized and vague'. So argues Manuel Calzada  Perez in his play  'El Diccionario' (The Power of Words), through the mouth of his protagonist, Maria Moliner. In 1972 she is  living in Valencia, and her grown up children have left home; she and her  ex-professor husband are about to enjoy their retirement.

Unfortunately, Maria is losing her memory; at the beginning of the play she has her  first meeting  with a consultant.  The diagnosis is cerebral arteriosclerosis.

This moving portrait of a woman in the first stages of dementia raises wider questions about language, survival and loss. In flashback we slowly learn about her marriage and children and how her experience relates to contemporary political rhetoric.

Vicky Pena  conveys the ironic modesty which hides the intelligence of a Republic supporter and survivor of  Franco’s dictatorship, with its purges and distortions. Maria even compiled a dictionary of Spanish usage to express the complexity of human responses, and is up for an award by the Spanish Royal Academy of Language - the first woman ever to be nominated.   
It's a comic as well as a tragic play.  Maria and her husband's affectionate relationship   is conveyed in humorous exchanges.The audience laughed with delight as the plodding consultant is obliged to tear up his notes on  Maria's 'delusion', when   she produces the heavy volumes that prove her achievement.
The author writes : ‘Maria Moliner is one of the most impressive and unknown personalities of the 20th Century Spain: an intellectual determined to create a better world. This play shows that this woman also made the most difficult decision: she chose to be free.’
It's rare enough to see a play in London that's presented in the original Spanish (with sur-titles) by a company with the talents of Teatro de La Abadia  under director  Jose Carlos Plaza, who presented the play in Madrid in 2012.  I hope there'll be many more like this.


Ann Bronte said...

I entirely agree with your opinion. Wonderful play. Ann

Sheila Cornelius said...

Ann, I am glad you enjoyed the play too. Thank you for leaving a comment.