Conceived:El Conde de Torrefiel
Reviewer: Sarah Hoover
The challenge in describing Guerrilla by young Spanish troupe El Conde de Torrefiel is that words intellectualise its visceral, affective experience, which is exactly what Guerrilla, directed by Tanya Beyeler and Pablo Gisbert, uses them to do. Surtitles (by Pablo Gisbert) projected in clean white letters against the filmic set (by Blanca Añón) display the memories and thoughts of the unrehearsed volunteer troupe (and El Conde member Keyna Nara), collected earlier. They also report a future world war and the alliances and conflicts which led to it. Meanwhile, sound, designed by Adolfo Garcia Fernández, is skilfully deployed to give the audience an embodied experience of boredom, relaxation, and a kind of aroused suffocation.
It happens in three parts, each displayed physical performance sewn to the others by the surtitles and the presence of their subjects. The first performance, that of spectating, mirrors the audience as actors enter a set of chairs to hear a lecture from Romeo Castellucci, recent winner of a Robert LePage prize (instituted in 2019). Dropping these very appropriate names identifies the likely audience composition. We watch them watching Castellucci, whose voice lectures in Italian. Our attention, given no action to cling to, wanders between reading, listening, and watching. We read about E, the “girl” on stage in the yellow jumper, and her oppressive service as a waitress in a Dublin bar. We listen to the voice, though only Italian speakers understand its nuances. We watch the actors take notes, nod in agreement, shift in their seats. We embody a theatrical boredom which becomes self-reflective. The second section, a tai-chi class, encourages relaxation while the surtitles draw focus to a narrative, K’s friend grieving the loss of passion in his relationship. In the third and most physically powerful scene, the thumping music of a rave pushes hearts to beat faster, and the incredibly loud bass rumbles in guts (earplugs are provided.) We watch the volunteers dance behind a transparent scrim, gyrating and bouncing together. They are separate from us and able to move in ways we cannot, encouraging an exploration of physical response and the strictures of spectatorship. All the while the surtitles demand attention, but this reviewer struggled to take it all in -which seems to be the point.
One of the surtitles quotes: “When the art world starts taking the piss, there’s going to be a bloodbath.” While some may not enjoy becoming an object of their own gaze or drawing lines between contrasting and contradictory ideas, this reviewer appreciated the skilful manipulation of both cognitive and sensory attention by Guerrilla.
Runs until 2 October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival | Image: contributed