Teatro Griot is a company of actors who are focused on exploring themes that are relevant for the construction and questioning of contemporary Europe and its reflection on theatrical discourse and aesthetics. The work that the company develops arises from the tension between body and territory, collective memory and individual memory, collective imaginary and individual imaginary. Teatro Griot operates in that intersection space of geographical and symbolical territories as the neuralgic point of an artistic movement that produces memory.
Artistic director Zia Soares on Teatro Griot’s response to lockdown…
Like other countries, the pandemic in Portugal has been terrible, theatres were closed most of the time. Many projects were cancelled or postponed, too many without new dates being fixed.
So it was a very hard time not only for the actors, directors and writers, but also for the technicians, venues and theatre companies.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture reacted too late – late and short.
Some companies and artists responded to the situation by creating artistic contents or even plays to be seen online. Of course that’s a response, a reflexive response, where people said, “Okay, we can’t do this, so we’ll do that”, but maybe it’s something still to unveil, to be processed.
In our case, when the first lockdown was announced in Portugal, in March 2020 we were finishing the presentations of the performance Luminoso Afogado/Luminous Drowned, and then shortly after that we were able to start rehearsals for our next production, O Riso dos Necrófagos/The Laughter of the Scavengers.
We had already planned that to be a long process – starting in June 2020, and premiering in February in 2021, so we have been able to stick to our original plan.
That was amazing, because we normally rehearse a new project, a new play for more or less three months, but this project specifically, was projected to be rehearsed over all these months, as part of the creative process. So the timing matched – during the whole pandemic situation, we were rehearsing most of the time, apart from when we had to stop for two or three weeks during a severe lockdown period. And we were able to do it in person, following the government regulations.
The thing that went a little bit unexpected, if we can say that, is that in February 2021 we were still in lockdown, so we couldn’t premiere it then but in April. We were affected not only because we did not have the budget for the two extra months, but also because unavoidably the project was contaminated by the general pandemic context: the world was shut, the streets were empty, fear took over everyone, people were dying…
No one still really knows what’s going to be the next phase, how to organise ourselves, what makes sense, how can we survive – humanly, financially and artistically. This pandemic context implies a change; it’s a process that infects our heads, our thoughts, our moods, our bodies, and naturally our artistic projects.
Now we are rehearsing our next performance, Trópicos Mecânicos (Mueda)/Mechnical Tropics (Mueda), by Felipe Bragança in collaboration with Teatro Griot and Catarina Wallenstein – where science fiction, fables and documentation are mixed in this visual and theatrical production around the memories of the Mueda Massacre, which took place in Mozambique in 1960. It’s a transmedia project, inspired by Afro-futurism and Brazilian tropicalism, the show is also a tribute to Mozambican filmmaker Ruy Guerra, who turns 90 in 2021. The show will premiere in Berlin on September 1st (2021) and then in Portugal on October 1st. Hopefully!