Within the framework of the eighth edition of the Research and Creation Laboratory “Traspasos Escénicos”, convened by the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) between 4 and 9 March, the theatre group Cuban Cofee by Portazo´s Cooperative (CCPC), better known as “El Portazo”, offered two functions of what would be the third installment of the saga entitled “La República Light”, a work in progress in which they have been working for several years and which is fundamentally based on Cuban historical memory, identity and reality.
The famous Cultural Centre “El Sauce” hosted both presentations of the project, which aims to reflect on the history of the country, starting from its deconstruction, shedding light on its hidden areas and mixing a wide variety of scenic, visual and linguistic resources. The parody, the pastiche and the political satire go beyond the mere complaint or the denunciation to deepen in the daily life that crosses the Island, paying attention to the immediate events, the generational interests and even rumors that not because they are, they stop enclosing a possible truth.
The cheerful convoy of whores and anti-heroes, the extemporaneous militia and the irreverent pioneer who resists the doctrine gave life to a particularly crude script by director Pedro Franco and actress María Laura Germán, threaded on texts written by various authors, from Leonor Pérez and Cuban playwright Norge Espinosa, to Rubén Martínez Villena and Williams Quintana, one of the actors in “El Portazo”.
From laughter to tears of the soul, two hours passed of the best cabaret dressed with tenths, monologues brimming with lucidity and spicy humor, tributes to the bufo theater, emoticons and hashtags, all possible languages according to each topic that worries Cubans. Gender violence; the appropriation of patriotic symbols; the challenge of being young in these times; the weight of duty; as well as the danger posed by apologies are some of the delirious focuses in the work of Pedro Franco.
On stage the feminine goes beyond the biological condition to personify primordial concepts generically associated: the homeland, freedom, the flag, morality, the family. Hence the insistence on placing the national flag on a body that looks like a woman, proposing a double discourse on violence and gender identity that extends to an accumulation of values equally trampled underfoot by the tyrannical male.
There are moving passages that touch very sensitive fibers in Cubans and transcend the problematic assistance of emigration. This Republic that has nothing light, but illuminates very well what we are, focuses its interest on what has been lost through the paths of fear, censorship and oblivion.
The figure of the hero reappears, that decisive factor in the struggle of the peoples and which in our context seems reduced to dead letter. Thrown from its pedestal, lined with the most scandalous kitsch, the paradigm stands before its epitaph and upon the memory of others before it.
Democratically, the public is invited to vote for the hero of their choice. There are three options: Mella, Villena and Guiteras; just names in a book, although at the time they took the reins of history to die for social justice, equality, decency. Why would young Cubans die today? For the snitches, hypocrites, opportunists, thieves, corrupt guayabera; for the children and grandchildren of tropical maharajas who live in waste, while the children and grandchildren of ordinary people risk their lives on dangerous routes in search of prospects.
In order to dose the brutality of the message, there was no lack of intermediates of debauchery and enjoyment, because that is what the Cuban Coffee by Portazo´s Cooperative is all about, “where the fight is made into an art”. From pain to choteo and vice versa, which in Cuba cannot be otherwise, or it would burst our hearts in the chest.
Work in Progress was enriched by recent events and the circumstances surrounding them. Referendum, egalitarian marriage and the worsening economic situation were approached from an acid parody that, at times, bordered on self-flagellation; perhaps the only way the director found to make sense of what has no head or foot.
Once again we have to thank the actors for their dedication, the careful revision of the history of Cuban theatre and the hailstorm of signifiers that hammer the brain to provoke a real, physical pain, born of the indignation of looking at ourselves and discovering that we are a little less than we thought. Fortunately there is a theatre like the CCPC, dedicated to collecting each fragment of our identity to recompose it daily with laughter and tears. A theatre determined to grow the roots that apostates want to cut.