Argentine and British veterans of the Malvinas are reconciled in the theater | Culture
Not long ago, Marcelo Vallejo still felt that he was stabbed with a dagger every time he heard English spoken. He could not stand the music in that language and fled when his son studied him. He hated English and the English since 1982, just turned 20, when he experienced the most traumatic experience of his life: Falklands War. "I lived angry for a long time. Drugs, alcohol, depressions. I always explain it like this: I had to hate to shoot and then it is not easy to get rid of that hatred, "he summarizes from Buenos Aires in a telephone conversation with EL PAÍS.
However, when two years ago the multi-talented Argentine artist Lola Arias proposed him to participate in a theatrical show with British veterans, his former enemies, he decided to accept. What did you feel when you met them face to face? "Just hearing them already transported me to the past. In rehearsals, any conversation, a sound, could take me there again. It was difficult for me to sleep, I thought about leaving it many times, I did not feel entitled to talk about memories in which dead companions appeared, "he replies.
However, Vallejo endured and now he does not regret it. Released in 2016 with great success in Argentina and the United Kingdom, Minefield Since then, it has become a world reference for documentary theater. The next weekend, from November 23 to 25, will finally be able to be seen in Spain, at the Teatros del Canal in Madrid, where the film that Arias herself shot in parallel with the rehearsals will also be screened. Theater of war, which focuses, above all, on the relationship that is established between the veterans and that won the prize of the ecumenical jury in the last edition of the Berlin Festival. "The work does not speak only of that battle, but of the footprint that war leaves on people. That is why it interests beyond the countries directly involved ", explains the director, also on the phone from Buenos Aires.
Certainly, it is not the same to reconstruct a war with actors than with the protagonists themselves. And it even makes morbid to see the old enemies together. On the Argentine side: Marcelo Vallejo was a volunteer at the front and today is a triathlon champion; Gabriel Sagastume, called up while doing military service, is a criminal lawyer and Rubén Otero survived the sinking of the ship Belgrano, at the moment it has a band tribute to The Beatles (but in the concerts it leaves "with a t-shirt that vindicates the Malvinas", clarifies during the function).
On the British side: Lou Armor, a professional soldier, left the Army and is now a special education teacher; David Jackson, radio operator at the front, today is a veteran psychologist; and Sukrim Ral, born in Nepal, one of the feared Gurkas hired as mercenaries by the British Army, currently works as a security guard.
They are all now in their 60s and were selected for the show after an intense process of interviewing veterans from both sides. Throughout the show, your memories are coming up: the trip to Malvinas, their positions, a wounded comrade, an enemy that dies in your arms, a letter for the family, the noise of the combats, an explosion, fear, the cold , hunger, the return home, life after the war ...
All that is being reconstructed by the veterans on a kind of shooting set with the help of models, music and projections. "That's me!" Exclaims Armor at one moment of the show when she sees her picture on the front pages of all the newspapers with her arms raised. It was on April 2, 1982, when the Argentine Army attacked the permanent British detachment on the islands and took control of it. "I felt so humiliated that I asked to go back," he explains.
Armor did not hesitate when Arias offered to participate in the project. "In my country it is usual for veterans to meet with former enemy combatants. We have a lot of experience in the world wars. On the Argentine side, on the other hand, it was harder: mainly because it was not a professional army, many young people were volunteers at the front because of the hatred that the dictatorship instilled in them against the English. We did not go with hatred, for us it was just another war, "he answers by telephone from London.
Even today the differences persist. "In Argentina, the defeat of the Falklands is still an open wound. In the streets you are still continuously painted that claim sovereignty. For that reason, the work caused a great commotion in its premiere. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the show has served more to bring to light a war that they do not consider too important, but that was really the kick-off of Thatcherism, "says the director.
Towards the end of the show, Armor and Sagastume contrast their versions. They tell the story of the colonization of the Falklands in a completely different way: how they learned it in their countries. Would they go to war again? "Do not. And much less to defend a flag, "responds crisp Vallejo. "It depends. There are just wars. Maybe I would go to fight against extremism, "says Armor. Although in reality the questions that these veterans have heard the most throughout their lives are others: did you kill someone? Did you see someone die? Did you have a dying person in your arms? It is the chorus of the exciting rock song that they interpret live as the closing of the show.
A reference of the documentary genre
Writer, actress, stage director and film director, Lola Arias has become in recent years one of the most prominent voices of documentary theater, a genre on the rise in the international scene. "It was inevitable that theater, as it has been doing cinema for many years, began to reflect the contemporary world with contemporary stories. It is good that we use Hamlet metaphorically to talk about certain things that still concern us, but why not also use what happens around? -Explains the artist-. I think that only in this way can the theater attract new audiences. For example, when we represent Minefield, the stalls are much more heterogeneous: there are veterans, relatives, people who usually do not go to the theater, spectators simply interested in history ... ". Yes, he warns, for the result to work at the artistic level, it is necessary a thorough research process and many trials with the protagonists when they are not professional actors. In Minefield, nobody would say that they are not.