If we took away the last five minutes of these XXIV Max Awards, we would say that it was a measured, correct and boring gala as it is impossible that this type of event is not. Something difficult to avoid when the viewer rarely knows even half of the more than twenty artists who were awarded on Monday night at the Arriaga Theater in Bilbao. But behind the gala was one of the most talented and knowledgeable men on the scene, Calixto Bieito, who was simmering the viewer.
Alfredo Sanzol: “In the public theater we do miracles”
The event began lukewarmly vindictive. It did not seem that the opening number, cabaret and incorrect, of Asier Exteandia had caught on in the winners. Exteandia interpreted, without being Ute Lemper or Marianne Faithfull, a vigorous version of the theme that Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht composed for their work Happy end, Bilbao Song. Bieito thus began his dramaturgy around the city, and therefore the Basque Country, on which the entire gala was going to revolve.
Deborah Macías received the first prize for the best costume design for the work Nise, a little gem by Ana Zamora, one more, about the tragedy of the Portuguese queen. The work, which was competing for three awards, would be left only with this recognition that Macías took advantage of to support the claims of the Technicians Platform affected by the EPO 2018. Radio Televisión Española avoided focusing on the minister of culture, Miquel Iceta, who attended the gala together with the mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, and the general director of INAEM Amaya de Miguel. “The curtains are not raised without technicians,” snapped Macías.
Thus, throughout the gala many of the winners were showing their support, without much fuss, to this cause. A support that sounded like a necessity in the words of the winner of the night Alfredo Sanzol, director of the National Dramatic Center, who won three Max awards with his production The bar that swallowed up all the Spanish. The work was awarded with the distinction to the best design of a scenic space and with two of the greats: best theater show and theatrical authorship. This montage is clearly, whether it be a simple sainete or a scenic marvel, depending on your taste, the great theatrical success of recent years. Perhaps he knew little and part of the public missed that he did not win the award for the best actor Francesco Carril, who with this work has become the Oscar Ladoire of the 21st century. But in this case he was won over by one of the greats of Catalonia, Joan Carreras, an actor who has swept the Teatre Salt with the montage on Ricardo III History of a layman, also written and directed by one of the most relevant authors in Latin America, the Uruguayan Gabriel Calderón.
Another of the surprises to the detriment of Sanzol, although everything was at home since it was also a CDN production, was the award for the best stage direction for the work Robbery, beating and death in Agbanäspach which fell on the young Marcel Borràs and Nao Albert. Attention to the latter, who is becoming a pure theatrical animal, being capable of one day premiering with Jan Lawers’ Needcompany a great montage on Shakespeare and the next day picking up a Max with this play that seems to have hooked the young audience that packed the theater. traditional National Dramatic Center when it premiered there.
The gala, as was inevitable, entered into that tiresome achievement of prizes and thanks. In addition, the stage space, occupied by the more than solvent Bilbao Sinfonietta, left only a minimal circular platform for the performances. There was no show of light and space. Thus, the classic dance numbers of the gala were tight as in the performance of the dancer Adriana Bilbao or Paula Parra, although the latter had a difficult grip. Bieito seemed determined to take his motto for this edition to the letter: “turn the whole city into a stage”, get off the scene.
The versolari Jon Maia sang emphatically from a box, the head of the theater, the box office, sang in Basque the Guinean singer Afrika Bibang and intermittently led the gala Yogurinha, cabaret and beloved Basque transvestite known for phrases such as “ I am abertzale, maritxu and of the left ”. At the gala he gave us another of his Valleinclanescas descriptions: “I am dyslexic, transvestite and autonomous.” Diversity, linguistic normality, but without proclamations or outbursts, without being carried away by the farce. Something that did not ignore darts directed at the current Spanish political present very clear as the moment when Yogurinha sang one of the songs in his children’s show.
Other clear winners of the night were the Zaragozans from Nueve de Nueve Teatro who achieved with their work With how good we were (Ferretería Esteban) two well-deserved awards: best musical composition for stage performance and best production work. Small Aragonese company that has managed to hook with the public with this black farce musical show. They had the intelligence to call one of the directors who have been bidding the most, the Andalusian José Troncoso, a director who was also perfect for the proposal. Finally, in theater, it is worth highlighting the two awards that Julio Manrique’s montage of Chejov’s work won. The three germans, Mireia Aixalà won the award for the best female performance and Manrique himself for the best adaptation.
The awards related to dance were this year more territorial, thus the Valencian production La Mort i la Donzella it won three awards, best dance show, best choreography and best lighting. An achievement of the Valencian public theater. The best dance performer went to Iván Villar for the montage of Leira of the Galician company Nova Galega de Danza, and the best interpreter did it in one of the incipient figures of Basque dance, Iratxe Ansa for his work Naked.
The gala also had its most emotional moments, such as the award of honor to the great actress Gemma Cuervo who was received by her daughter Cayetana Guillén Cuervo and by a long applause from the respectable that the actress could only thank. The other moment was, as every year, those members of the SGAE who have died this year, a particularly difficult course due to the relevance of some of the deceased such as Pilar Bardem, Hermann Bonnin, Francisco Brines, Caballero Bonald, Mario Camus, Monserrat Carulla, Ángel Gonzalez, Gerardo Malla, Enrique San Francisco, Alfonso Sastre or Gerardo Vera.
The gala was coming to an end, well measured, with moments of finesse such as the appearance of Bernardo Atxaga reciting the words of the Bilbao poet Blas de Otero in which he recalled an Arriaga in times of the Second Republic. A theater where the poet could see the montage of Blood Wedding scored by Margarita Xirgu. With other more forgettable moments, with the feeling of having covered the file, both in the territorially distributed track record and in an integrating, poetic, clearly Basque gala and in which there had also been no major failure to weigh it down. Even the speech of an aging President of the SGAE Foundation, Juan Jose Solana, was emotional when he recalled his difficult passage through the hospital sick with COVID-19. His thanks to doctors and nurses was charged with sincere emotion. This year there have been no flamenco awards and perhaps, something unrelated, his dance record is one of the weakest. During the next few days everything will be discussed and analyzed.
But the end was missing. Already in the last prize, for the best authorship, which went to Alfredo Sanzol, the public could see a Cervantes de Saavedra beaten, between ghostly and carnival, sitting on the proscenium. Once the awards were over, the Children’s Choir of the Bilbao Choral Society occupied the front of the stage and without uniforms, dressed as civilians, as young people, they sang Baga biga higa, song composed by the singer-songwriter Basque Mikel Laboa on 1969 in which the lyrics come from two poems onomatopoeic from Basque folklore. A beautiful a cappella song in which that half-transvestite Cervantes, with a hallucinated insane face, and no other than Asier Exteandia, was influencing, each time with a more stark tone, with two of the most fundamental, visionary and Spanish theater texts. The first a text from The public by Federico García Lorca, and the second the well-known spiel by Max Estrella in Bohemian lights, in which Valle Inclán exposes his theory of the grotesque. Two hard texts with the human being and with Spain. And a reading from the side of the dead that Etxeandía managed to embody and at the same time incardinate with the music and the lyrics of the song. Etxeandia, supported by onomatopoeia and the harsh verb of Valle and Lorca, reminded us that not everything is sainete and that theater is also experimentation and a sacred place. One of the most graceful moments in the history of the Max Awards that the audience knew how to respond with delivered applause.