Angélica Liddell arrived in Madrid after her controversial visit to the Autumn Festival last November with her latest piece, terrifying. A cryptic and wordless piece that did not convince many of his fervent followers, followers who even came looking for entry to an icy Escorial from various parts of Spain. The question remained in the air if something had broken between the creator from Madrid and an audience with whom she shares a special communion.
Everything was solved in the first scene of A rib on the table: father, a work motivated by the death of Liddell's father and which she created after A rib on the table: mother, assembly that could be seen in Spain two years ago. His parents died in a short period of time and Liddell has worked on this imposed and always turbulent relationship.
An empty space, with black curtain walls. In the middle, a stretcher with a dead man. Angélica Liddell comes out dressed in mourning, huge hands of Renaissance painting are projected in the background. There begins a monologue that Liddell, with that body artaudian where the flesh becomes sick at the same time as the verb, he blurts out a thank you to his dead father that at the same time becomes a black tedeum: accusation and repudiation as well as dependency and involuntary love. Bold movement this beginning (the piece for two hours will go through more cryptic and intellectualized moments), which engages directly with the viewer and that Liddell also executes perfectly, as always. But that beginning has something more. The aesthetics are perfect, the text and the interpretation too, but we also see a fragile Liddell, although she screams, in a moment of farewell, abandonment and orphanhood accompanied by distant howls of abused dogs.
From there, a convoluted dramaturgy will begin that will juxtapose the agony of Liddell's father, the literary world of the Austrian author who gave masochism its name, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (especially his work The Venus of Furs), the study made by Gilles Deleuze on this author, The cold and the cruel, Y lessons on aesthetics of the German thinker Hegel. The religion governed by a masochistic contract between the creator and the penitent, the art that surpasses the beauty of nature, that surpasses the creation of God and that is also established as a religion where a masochistic relationship is established between art itself and the creator. And the father-son relationship, a relationship governed by the Freudian vision of Eros and Thanatos, where love is a condition for the death instinct to reign. Opposites coincide, one cannot exist without the other. Liddell cannot hate his father, be an authoritarian that is confused with the patriarchal religion, with the figure of God that is also that of Christ, without loving him. The condumio where the piece enters is, therefore, dense. Furthermore, Liddell will not try to be didactic, but revealing.
There are three powerful moments of the work that illuminate this cryptic and beautiful piece. The first is a presence, an intervention: that of the filmmaker Oliver Laxe. Laxe will go on stage surrounded by five Rubens-style but disproportionate, fat, beautiful, deformed, with unsustainable hips. And like a modern Christ, he will recite an obscure text in the manner of Liddell, sickening the body and the voice, between the cry and the plea. In recent years we have begun to see texts said 'a la Liddell' on stage that remained in form and did not scratch the marrow and the centripetal energy that this creator achieves. And it is that what Liddell does is not based on an acting technique, which too, but rather it entails a vision and position before the world. The shadow of this author is already very long on the Spanish scene and often falls into failed imitation. Laxe, however, takes that game to his own turf, to his own energy. It doesn't do, but it is. The rehearsals in which this filmmaker, who is not an actor, was welcoming, assimilating, under the direction of Liddell, this mode of acting that the actress has been perfecting since The Palavrakis marriage (2001) and that exploded in force and form in that Señor Puta de And the fish went out to fight the men (2003). Laxe thus becomes an unredeemed Christ who faces an eternal loneliness where there is no death, an agony in which he seeks redemption in a dragged Virgin who begs for alms between vomiting and spoils. Landscape of a disheartening and disconsolate immensity that demonstrates the author's ability to understand the barren reality of being masculine.
Another of the play's most powerful moments is the scene where Liddell mixes caring for a dying father with The Venus of fur of Sacher-Masoch. Alchemy that the creator delivers with the pure aesthetics of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Liddell will enter dressed in blue chiffon and flanked by fur suits in a futuristic odyssey space where a forgetful father is dying and is cared for by the voluptuous graces who have become nurses here. In a long scene where crypticism is no longer textual, we see Liddell taking care of a father (Lithuanian actor and musician Yuri Ananiev), with that mixture of childhood love and hatred before a parent from whom one can no longer sue past injustices, it dies But apart from the masochistic game, the scene is accumulating polysemy.
The first of these is the continuous dialogue, once again, with Romeo Castellucci. On this occasion, with one of his most central pieces of recent years: On the concept of face in the son of God. Liddell has maintained a stage dialogue with the Italian creator for years. A one-way epistolary relationship where the dialogue, instead of in letters, takes place on stage. Castellucci, in that piece from 2011, which shocked so many, recounted the unbearable care given to an elderly man who is dying, who needs all the care in the world and who has brutal incontinence of the sphincter. The old man does not stop overflowing diapers, something that Castellucci accentuated by making the whole room smell of pure sour defecation. At the end of the piece, an enormous painting of the young Christ by Antonello da Messina (a painting that also appears in Liddell's work) was harassed and destroyed as a rebellious and sacrilegious act before an omnipotent God but who left man to die without any dignity.
Castellucci thus denied the human dimension of God, of the possible approach of God to man through Jesus. In this case, Liddell builds the inverse of this piece throughout the work. Thus establishing a masochistic love/hate relationship with Castellucci. Thus we discover that the hands of the first scene are the hands of the Virgin Mary in the painting the annunciation, of the same painter. In this way, we understand the inclusion of a prepubescent child in the piece, a recurring resource in the Italian that we could see in his last piece, for example, bros. Liddell will later in the play show the entire picture of the annunciation highlighting its geometric perfection: two tilted triangles in a perfect oval, also a metaphor for the masochistic relationship where the sum of one and one is equal to one. And so Liddell, at one point in this long scene, strips off some ostensibly excrement-stained panties and has her father wash her ass. Scene of a multiplied polysemy where the symbol of Christian charity of anointing also comes into play, where the feet of the other have to be washed. This moment of disturbing syncretism, where an impotent and senile Christ anoints a furious Magdalena, was used by certain people in the audience to leave the room. A room mostly occupied by a young audience and that was silently delivered to Liddell's diatribes.
The relationship of the piece with the work of Castellucci, once it is present, reveals certain important aspects of the work. On the one hand, the aforementioned symbiosis between art and religion. Liddell faces God at the same time he faces his stage God, Castellucci. He wants to become his concave mirror, his feminine counterpart. "1+1=1", says the wall of the theater at one point as a synthesis not only of the masochistic relationship in which Liddell encompasses the religious plane and the father-son relationship, but also in the world of art. Liddell wants to be 1+1=1 with Castellucci, attacks him and loves him. The art world is also ruled by love, repetition, mimesis and murder.
But that will to put together uncomfortable but revealing symbols and meanings does not end there in this polysemic and gradually hatched scene. The end of it, with urination included, an action that threw out another good number of spectators who left half running, achieves one of the highest moments of Liddell's theater where art is revealed as the religion of the unspeakable and the ungraspable.
The work ends in an ending as cathartic as it is hopeless. An ending focused this time on the love relationship of the masochistic universe that the creator has been weaving throughout the work. Laxe and Liddell collude under a masochistic contract. Laxe obeys, Liddell commands. Without revealing the ending, I do say that here the creator positions herself ethically. We see how the masochistic relationship does not mean that the dominator is sadistic. We see that the one who commands is not the one who dominates. Liddell strongly favors Wanda, the character in Sacher-Masoch's novel, a wounded person who dominates out of love and not out of pleasure in the face of power. The ending, with the already recurrent descending hulk on stage in this artist, in this case an ambulance car, ends in incest as evidence handed over to death. Liddell gives himself to his dying father. Very powerful ending where, even the descending ambulance, has a strong symbolic force. Liddell thus gives us, in short, a black vision of a mediocre world, of a wasteland, where the man is useless and it is the woman on whom he focuses his gaze. Do not be confused, if in the assembly of two years ago, The Scarlet Letter, attacked head-on with the #MeToo movement, Liddell has never stopped betting on one gender, the female. This work is another example. Its end thus leaves man as something harmful and useless, an end reminiscent of that of The house of strength (2009), where the creator advocated a world where reproduction did not need man and he was abolished from the world.
The play will be on the bill until January 30 at the Teatros del Canal. It is also worth mentioning the small intervention of one of the fathers of Hispanic performance, Llorenç Barber, and Elzbieta Koslacz, translator of the Polish actress and playwright Gabriela Zapolska, in a way an alter ego of Liddell herself who wrote and performed hundreds of works in the nineteenth century. Everything is full of meanings in the montage. A complicated work, with edges and overlaps, not friendly or easy for the viewer, but with a depth that continues to be an oasis on the national and international scene. It has been more than five years since Liddell was not in the capital of the kingdom for such a long time. It remains to be seen if the theater fills up every day, if this difficult, dense and cryptic work permeates the audience. On the day of the premiere, Liddell was reconciled again with her audience, who cheered her on and applauded generously. But all that is folklore. There are still tickets left, if you can go and immerse yourself in a world that, although it seems inaccessible at first, opens up in scenic polysemy in the brain.