This March, a new series of shows at the Cervantes Theatre will showcase female theatremakers from Madrid under the title Madrid Is a Female Name (Madrid Tiene Nombre de Mujer).
Each show is staged on a single day, with performances on the first four Saturdays in March at 7.30pm. The evening will be rounded off with a Q&A session with performers, playwrights and directors.
Sponsored by Madrid Destino, which aims to promote the Spanish city as a destination for culture, Madrid Is a Female Name brings to London four monologues written and performed by women.
The first is La Blanca, by María Folguera with Anahí Beholi, which is about diversity and the difficulties of fitting in. “What happens when your parents are hippies from Ibiza, one of your grandmothers is Guinean and the other is Catalan, your grandfather is a German landowner and you are an actress whom nobody knows how to define?” asks actress Anahí Beholi.
This is followed by Descarriadas by Laila Ripoll, performed by Luna Paredes – a rock concert, a woman and her memories. The show addresses the need to talk about a part of recent history that has been silenced in Spain: the abuses by the Women Protection Board.
The season continues with Gloria by Noelia Adánez and Valeria Alonso, performed by Ana Rayo. This takes the form of an imagined conversation with Spain’s most famous poet, Gloria Fuertes, who was orphaned at the age of 12 and was forbidden to write when she was young. A survivor of the Spanish Civil War, she created a life for herself that was very different from that demanded by the norms of Spain under General Franco.
Finally, there is Una Habitación Propia (A Room of One’s Own) by María Ruiz and performed by Clara Sanchis, which is a Spanish stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s famous book on the role of women in literature.
Performances at 7.30pm, followed by a Q&A with performers, writers and directors
Why is the Cervantes Theatre presenting four monologues written and directed by women and what is behind Madrid Destino’s decision to sponsor the series?
“Our choice of name and programme was determined by a couple of factors,” says Paula Paz, associate director of the Cervantes Theatre. “Unlike the UK, Spanish theatre has had women playwrights, actresses and female theatre entrepreneurs since the time of Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega. This year, our production schedule and our commitment to help younger authors – we recently launched the Ana Caro Prize for new writing – reflect that tradition.
“Secondly, while London has a very developed and diverse theatrical offering, these sorts of work at this level of quality don’t often find a voice in the British capital. With more than 80 theatres, great exhibitions, a thriving music scene and some of the best museums in Europe, Madrid is a fantastic place to visit for culture and leisure, so helping us showcase this by sponsoring this series was an obvious choice for Madrid Destino.”
Interestingly, the Cervantes Theatre is presenting these monologues only in Spanish. What is behind this decision?
“One of our objectives is to help non-native Spanish speakers access Spanish theatre,” says Paz. “We’ve tried a variety of different approaches. For example, most of our major productions are performed in both Spanish and English on different nights. We’ve created adaptations of plays where the Spanish and English languages were interweaved during the performance, in our most recent production we displayed surtitles for the first time, and in our wider programme we run acting classes in Spanish. For Madrid Is a Female Name, we are introducing two extra tools to increase accessibility. The two later shows – Gloria and Una Habitación Propia – feature a pre-show workshop, which is free for anyone who has a ticket. Until the end of the season, scripts of the four plays in Spanish are available in the theatre for anyone to come in and read.”
The Cervantes Theatre is committed to helping people develop their Spanish language skills. It works extensively with schools and colleges and has developed an online platform that aims to support Spanish A-level students with plans to extend this to younger pupils and also beyond schools.
Pablo de Miguel, who is responsible for the development of the platform, adds: “Obviously, the fastest way to learn a language is to spend time in a country where it is natively spoken. In a month of morning lessons at any of the many excellent Madrid language schools, followed by afternoons and evenings using your new skills sightseeing, it’s quite possible to move from a basic level of competency to a good degree of fluency. Even a week doing this is really beneficial. We can support and extend that process and offer lots of exciting ways to use Spanish and learn about Spanish culture at the same time.”