August 28, 2006, by Peter Kirwan

Nos do Morro/ Gallery 37 Post–show talk @ The Courtyard Theatre

Just a few extra notes about the post–show talk from yesterday’s performance.

Much of the start of the talk was devoted to the two groups telling each other how much they meant to each other. While admittedly a little cringy in places, it was actually quite moving, particularly listening to how the city kids from Gallery 37 had been inspired by the Brazillian artists. The director, Guti Fraga, spoke at great length about the use of theatre as a weapon against oppression and as a way of uniting across international boundaries– the kind of stuff you often see on education websites. To see the two groups working together and hugging at the end, though, seemed to bring it to life. It’s the kind of collaboration that really makes a difference to the people involved, and that certainly came across.

Unlike at ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’, the questions from the audience were very interesting and well–considered, and even the token comedy questions (“Are your actors, like, weightlifters?”) were answered seriously and gave us a great insight into the theatre practices of the Rio shanty towns (most of the actors were professionally involved in sport or dance as well as theatre).

There was some good–natured jibing at Deborah Shaw, who hosted the talk– Fraga, when asked why they’d chosen ‘Two Gentlemen’, commented that they’d only been given a choice of that or ‘King John’ (laughter). They’d also had restrictions put on them in terms of set and timing, hence only a single performance of the play. Despite this, though, it came out that Deborah had become far more personally involved in the production than had originally been planned, to the point of working with the Gallery 37 youngsters for a fortnight before Nos Do Morro arrived, and the project certainly had that community feel to it.

There was much talk of the limited rehearsal time and the achievement in putting together something so good so quickly. The only disappointment I came away with from the talk was one young girl’s comment on her disgust at Valentine’s forgiveness of Proteus. While obviously a completely valid opinion on one of the most difficult moments in Shakespeare, this was a moment that had apparently caused a lot of discussion in the rehearsal room, and yet was ultimately brushed over onstage without being tackled. That seemed to me a really wasted opportunity– here were a group of young actors who were taking on the issue of forgiving an attempted rape, with no academic training in the niceties of friendship drama, and I would have LOVED to see Gallery 37 really tackle the moment and give us their opinion of it. I wouldn’t have noticed, but their opinions were so clear in the post–show talk that I thought it was a real shame they weren’t reproduced onstage.

The other main highlight of the talk was Cicely Barry, the RSC voice coach who’s gone out to Brazil every year for the last 15 or so, making an appearance and talking about the power of language to make a difference. She obviously commanded enormous respect from both groups, and her short talk was again very interesting.

It seems unfair to compare this show to the large–scale productions by the RSC, or the American or Japanese companies. It comes from a completely different theatrical tradition, where money is far tighter. The purpose of the two groups is to bring in young people– amazingly, Nos do Morro has over 1800 young members!– off the streets, away from drugs and violence, and help them discover something more worthwhile in life. And that’s what this talk showed, how the work of these companies has made a difference in lives.

In many ways, you can say that that’s the most important thing of all.

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