Category Archives: Barcelona

Day 19 Barcelona and Ubu Roi

 

imageMy final day was spent at Parc Guell and with this visit all my long held desires to explore Gaudi were realized. Again whimsy and practicality are forged with nature and this beautiful location captures the cool harbor breeze that eludes the town below.  Gaudi, greatly informed by the ancient Greeks, has made our world a more beautiful and happier place.

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With a few hours to go before going to the theatre, I decided I really should try to do some shopping and so I started along the Ramblas only to find the last thing on my bucket list, the Gran Teatro Liceu and I was able to join the final tour of the day.image

It really is a superb opera house in the Italian style. Privately owned for generations, it is now in the hands of the government. Its most recent refurbishment following a fire in the 1990s, has improved the acoustics, the staging, rehearsal and dressing rooms and made the previously exclusive grand reception area available for all patrons. It’s a lavish and very appealing theatre.

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And finally after a sangria and a sit down it was time to find the Teatre Lluire on Mont Juic. I never did get to do any shopping. image

As I walked amongst the charming buildings of this arts precinct to get to the theatre, I discovered the Barcelona Institute of Theatre, an establishment that has always fascinated me in that it has a specific charter to teach, research, conserve, promote and innovate Catalan performing arts. It has also hosted many significant, international theatre studies conferences.image

imageNot knowing what sort of theatre is housing Ubu Roi, I’m astonished to find myself in the 1929 Palace of Agriculture, also built for the World Fair, now with a 2000 seater conversion in high Barcelona design. Even more astonishing is that I’m in the front row.image

And the play is also astonishing. With a fine pedigree coming from an invitation from Peter Brook, Cheek by Jowl created this production in co production with The Barbican, London.

Presented in French with Catalan surtitles, this is French high art in what I would expect from  La Comedie-Francaise. Jarry’s, Ubu Roi (1896) is always open to extraordinary interpretations and while this was salon style farce in a proscenium arch theatre, it was not so much the interpretation that was astonishing but the performances  particularly of Mere and Pere Ubu. However can I describe their energy and ability to turn on a sixpence? However can I even imagine what the rehearsal process must have been like to accomplish this level of slickness and how did the director know/ imagine what these people were capable of? How did he take them to those places? What an extraordinary accomplishment.

And please remember that I’m seeing this in a language I only just understand, so for the most part I’m missing the text and seeing French chic dissolve into the madness of vulgarity and scatology and back again. Really, for acting and production, this show takes the prize on this trip. Cheek by Jowl has presented a wonderful range of classics and this is no exception. I think there were at least 20 curtain calls. The audience went wild for it and so did I.image

What a wonderful note on which to end this tour.My sincere thanks for all comments, tweets and follows. It’s been a joy to stay in touch.

The next tour? Same time, same station, 2015.

Please go to http://www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com for a full itinerary and to register your interest to See the World & See World Theatre. It’s a great experience.

In theater, there is nothing to understand, but to feel.
Louis Jouvert
French actor and director.

Barcelona and the Teatro Grec


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 This started out as my dedicated Gaudi day and on arriving La Sagrada Familia, I found that not only do I need to buy a ticket, it was allocated a time when I would be admitted. Ok so what to do for two hours? So using my metro ticket I headed off to find Gaudi’s  Casa Batllo, the Rambles and the Boqueria, all of which I had spotted from the taxi last  night.  The whimsy, charm and architectural uniqueness of Gaudi is astonishing and on the Casa Battlio, I discovered that the balconies are cat faces!  image

The Boqueria on the other hand is all bustling business and practicality, but once more the displays have that intrinsic Barcelona aesthetic. I’ve never seen so much food, especially the fish and to think this is replenished every day. It is a ‘feast’ for the eye and a well deserved tourist attraction.

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It would be interesting to know just how much Gaudi and tourism contribute to this ailing economy – the cost of the continuing construction of the cathedral must be enormous. And while there, you are very aware that the stonemasons are at work.

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Once inside the cathedral, the beauty just overtakes you and Gaudi’s use of colour and form found in nature, in contrast to the richness and heaviness of gothic cathedrals, makes this one feel like a breath of fresh air. It is truly enlivening.

I have just arrived at The Teatro Grec having left Ted and Jo in the most amazing gin joint I’ve ever experienced. My gin was enhanced with grapefruit and ginger and it too was heaven in a glass.

imageAnd then into my third heaven for the day, seeing the beauty of this place after the heat and bus-i-ness of down town Barcelona. It has been a very hot day with traces of rain and just being in this elevated location on Mont Juic has relieved the oppression of the heat, or was it Victor’s Gin Palace?

imageHaving said that it’s 10 pm and the production is about to begin without any further threat of rain. However it had been sufficiently disquieting for me to put a hooded jacket in my bag – does it ever rain on Spain’s outdoor shows? I’m well used to people bringing fans and fanning away, but do they bring umbrellas? And of course people do stand in the rain at The Globe Theatre and the actors also get wet…

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imageThis beautiful ampitheatre, man- made for the 1929 World Fair, was created from a disused quarry and the whole place has a beautifully peaceful Greek aesthetic, including a lovely  garden and restaurant. The architect, Ramon Reventos, was clearly a neo Hellenist. I suspect the auditorium holds some 2000 people and tonight it seems almost full.

I’m in a little trepidation as to this production,  Batolome Encadenado, as it represents a modern version of Prometheus, billed as a tragi comedy with a chorus of actors from the Theatre Institute. Each year a writer is asked to create a text around contemporary themes in relation to  Greek theatre. With social and political overtones, this does address the economic situation as the premise for the story which deals with the theft of lower and middle class workers money by the World Bank.

imageAnd whilst the cast of young activists were enthusiastic and commited to the piece,  for me the production was enhanced by a light and sound show type of projections against the back wall of the theater. This worked really well and gave a texture to the otherwise one thing after another predictable nationalistic ardor. I will explore the genesis of this work so as not to disgrace myself as to its significance.

The audience was appreciative and all of sudden they dispersed down the hill. How will I get home I asked the hotel porter. Follow the crowd! I did just that and ultimately found myself in Avenue Parel-lel within a good stroll of the hotel.

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So a great day. Gaudi, The Teatro Grec, the Bocheria, Victor’s gin palace and catching up with Ted who I haven’t seen since May. He and Jo had fulfilled one of their Barcelona must do’s spending the whole day on the beach.