Angelica Liddell She has been an orphan for two years. He incinerated his parents with only three months apart. The telluric experience of mourning has given rise to two new works signed by the always scandalous theater director, 54 years old. The first, Mother, could be seen a few months ago in the Girona High Season festival. The second one is titled Father, premiered last Friday at the Teatro de la Colline, one of the most prestigious venues in Paris, where Liddell received somewhat perplexed applause in the first function, as if the public had not yet had time to digest what he had just witnessed.
If Liddell dedicated to his mother a trip to the Extremadura of his ancestors, with musical accompaniment of the singer El Niño de Elche, he now signs a requiem for his father, a military man named Anastasio, where he alternates his own crucis route with that of another disconsolate son : a Jesus Christ whom he interprets the filmmaker Oliver Laxe, who exchanges his usual calm by the bare-shouted dialogues that the director has written to him.
“Every day I strive to forget their lives. I don’t want to have another memory that their deaths, which gave me the giant of forgiveness and mercy, ”writes Liddell in the handheld program, the only clue available to understand his intentions. The director, in full media Lent, stopped granting interviews in 2016. Father It describes the process that led her to cry for those she had hated in her youth, until she came to profess love.
The play reaffirms Liddell’s commitment to an increasingly less narrative theater, formed by a long series of visual and philosophical stimuli. It is a work on “the unintelligible,” in his own words, which encompasses notions as unreadable as death, beauty or relationship with God. It is also one of his most cryptic functions, a visceral poem influenced by the essays on Hegel’s aesthetics and the texts on the masochism that Deleuze signed, whose theory about the “woman-executioner” seems to find a reflection in the scenic poetics of Liddell .
Father, which is represented in Paris until February 7 alternated with eight functions of Mother, It can be seen in April at the Internationaal Theater in Amsterdam, which is directed by the ubiquitous Ivo van Hove, and then at the Theaters of the Madrid Canal, co-producers of the show, which will host three performances in early May. The new work can be understood as a compendium of the entire theater of Liddell, marked by fire for his obsession with death since he signed his first work with puppets, back in 1988. In his career, art and life are usually the same. “I work with my feelings, which belong to my nights, to what has happened in my life,” says Liddell about his theater, which he once described as “disgustingly confessional.”
Marginal figure who spent the cap in the Retiro and worked on “a Chinese show” in Port Aventura, the director conquered international fame in 2010 at the Avignon Festival. Since then, he has not slept on the laurels. Liddell’s theater, which has practiced masturbation and self-mutilation on stage, remains a full-fledged aggression.
After reporting in his previous work, The Scarlett Letter, the MeToo as “a hairdressing magazine justice” led by “totalitarian misandras”, Liddell now returns with a show that can remind those medieval couplets where the death of a close friend was an occasion to reflect on the life and future of the times. Although, in your case, there is less Christian resignation than hate and pain.
As usual in his latest works, references to art history remain recurring in this new work. Father starts with a corpse lying on a stretcher under the giant hands of the Virgin of the Annunciation, the masterpiece of Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina. Later, an ass bursts onto the scene, half a dozen obese (and naked) young people with pigeons in their hands and a Jesus Christ looking like an insurance salesman or Mormon proselyte, who kneels on an Islamic carpet to pray.
In the following act, Liddell guards his father in the hospital, an old man who has become a baby, forcing the director to act as a mother despite not having procreated. Claiming her right to remain a daughter, Liddell decides to take off her panties, stained with feces, and forces her father to clean her buttocks. The playwright’s works remain dangerous artifacts in a theatrical world that is still controlled by Aristotelian certainties and soft consensus. His theater manages to enter areas of the subconscious in which few directors venture.
In the face of the mistreatment to which life is still subjecting, the director has no choice but to continue complying with each blow. But, on stage, Liddell reigns with absolutist methods, trying to subdue even Jesus Christ himself. “You are in my hands a blind instrument, a slave who obeys me in everything. I am your sovereign, the owner of his life and your death, ”he says in front of a kneeling Laxe. Towards the end, a processional march sounds, one of those funeral parades, while an old ambulance lands from the skies, as if it were a deus ex machina willing to solve the mess. Only, instead of saving, kill. In the world of Liddell, it is not clear that they are antonyms. After all, Anastasius means, in ancient Greek, “the risen one.”
When she was a child, Angelica Liddell used to talk to God “in dialogue”, in the solitude of the military barracks where her father’s job forced her to grow up. That divine conversation has not been interrupted since then. In Father, Liddell continues to talk with a Jesus Christ who looks like an ordinary man, whom Oliver Laxe plays. Director of What burnsHe confronts with this work his first theatrical experience, except for “a brief role as pastor” in the Christmas function of a Spanish school in Paris, where this son of Galician immigrants was born in 1982 and lived until he was six years old.
The proposal made by Liddell caught him by surprise. “He identified with me by watching my previous movie, Mimosas, and when reading an interview. We both quote words disgusted by modernity, when talking about concepts such as soul, spirit or eternity, ”said Laxe a few hours before the premiere. “For us, the sacred, faith as prayer and prostration through the work of art are important things. We are relieved to meet each other and it has been beautiful to work together. ”
Their artistic languages are not, however, too similar. “Even so, we both aspire to the same silence, to the same ecstasy from language. We share that pathos that entails being an artist today and being a believer at the end of time, ”says the director. Laxe, who had never seen a work by Liddell, having lived 12 years in Morocco before returning to Galicia, hesitated before accepting the role. He ended up doing it during a meeting with Liddell at the last San Sebastian festival. “We both tend to quickly validate or discredit others,” admits Laxe. “In Angelica I have felt a truth immediately. She puts her whole soul in what she does. And that, unfortunately, is not so common in art. ”
Despite not having “any ambition as an actor,” Laxe decided to divert to the theater at the time of greatest recognition in the cinema. “I am tired of myself. I am on a quest for being nobody. Canceling my personality and putting myself at the service of another artist has been very healthy, ”says Laxe, nominated for four Goya awards for What burns. On January 25 there is no show in Paris, so you will not miss the ceremony. “Actually, we have already won. We have reached viewers who do not see this type of cinema, moving away from the autistic elites that we are so many times. People have responded with a high level of maturity and sensitivity. It is hopeful for everyone“.