Madrid, May 19
The Belgian uprising against the Dutch started in a theatre in 1830. Three decades later, the Italians were roused by Verdi’s operas to throw off the yoke of the Austrians. Today, after an amazing performance, it was once again from a theatrical stage that people were invited to rise up.
It took months of preparation. The scenes, the costumes, the music, the songs. Over 150 people took part in the production. The premiere was tonight in the grand hall of Tabacalera Social Centre, a 15M operetta in one act, 45 minutes, accompanied by the Solfonica orchestra. ‘El Crepuscolo del Ladrillo‘, or: ‘The Twilight of the Bricks’.
I was lucky I got in with the press, because the line of people waiting outside went all around the block. There were two shows planned initially, but to satisfy the popular demand, a third show was performed late in the evening. It was a triumph. I couldn’t have hoped for a more stylish return to Madrid.
Basically, the operetta is a very concise history of Spain over the last few decades, culminating in economic crisis and revolt. The libretto was written by José Manuel Naredo, with clear foresight, over twenty years ago. It was adapted and performed in a scenery that represented Acampada Sol.
For me, who had the privilege to have been there in those days, it was a wonderful déja vu. Not just to see stage pieces painted with the clock tower of Puerta del Sol and the crowded square, but also the cardboard reproductions of the most symbolic slogans and banners. Most famously, the enormous image of Heinrich Himmler with Mickey Mouse ears and a euro logo on his forehead, which dominated the occupied square for weeks. Art was evanescent in the Acampada Sol, and to find it reproduced was a testimony to its value.
The Solfonica starts to play and the stage is filled with happy people. Definitely I’m not the only one with goosebumps. The scene is bucolic, full of love and peace. And backwardness, poverty, or so it seems. But the government officials have the answer. Speculation, privatisation, cement, cement, cement. With the benediction of the church, because frugality is sinful, and investment is good, be it in gold or cement or indulgences.
People flock to the cities, to the factories, the days of old come to an end, and nobody cares for as long as money keeps flowing. Then crisis strikes. People are depressed, the government doesn’t know what to do, so an expert is hired to come up with a solution. This includes a lot of lofty phrases, and comes down to new technologies, communication sciences, services, networks, etc. Eurocrats and economists start to implement the measures. Efficiency is the key. But when the economy collapses once more, the only solution is austerity, discipline, control.
At that point it’s the dream fairy who inspires people to wake up, to recuperate their freedom, their music, their happiness, their love for life. And to overthrow their government, to take the stage, all together, for the grand finale.
During the thunderous applause that followed, a banner was raised by the actors, with a simple message. ‘Rebellion’.
The performance of the Twilight of the Bricks was one night only. But you might be lucky. According to rumours the show will go on tour. If you don’t catch it, you can find the stream of the live broadcast here…