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Production description

The video is of the production of Caliban in London, September 16-30, 1997.

This description includes two notes from the actor Marcos Azevedo, followed by some reviews.

CALIBAN is a play based on a research about this well-known character of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Caliban, the sole inhabitant of an island, is a primitive and savage creature, and is enslaved by Prospero, a noble chief of state who, after being exiled from his country,  arrives on the island after a shipwreck.  The process of civilization and domination serves as foundation for the plot.

Thereafter, the play develops around only one man on stage, who will enact the metamorphosis of one character and create others, so breaking the linear narrative of the story, at times bringing the text into a contemporary focus to reveal it’s metaphors and reflections. It is an actual affirmation where humour becomes inevitable. Even though relations of serfdom may be universal and archetypal, for us, Caliban reveals the Brazil of the outcastcitizen. It is through him that we see the conflict between colonizer and colonized, appearing impossible here not to draw a parallel between Brazilian Indian and Black slave history.

The Tempest, written in 1611, is Shakespeare’s last play.  And if at any time Shakespeare thought about Brazil and the Americas in his work, it was through Caliban.  Speculations about the figure and description of the savage man of the “New World” were constant excitements for the Europeans.  Caliban, an anagram of cannibal, portrays this vision.

The balance between animality and naivety, faith and the absence of a God, the evolution of consciousness and the revolution for freedom, shows us that perhaps we are not so far from Caliban.  Like him, for example, our Tupís and Africans have learned to curse in a foreign language.

It is also peculiar that Caliban is the only Shakespearean character who learns the English language throughout the play.  And so in a similar manner, the  actor’s accent becomes not only justifiable, but also essential.  The constant switch between English, Portuguese and Indian dialects throughout the play reproduces the civilizing process poetically. The performance of CALIBAN places this character’s dimension into a new context by way of variations of voice and body-work.

And so the play becomes an amusing creation of comic situations which are not present in Shakespeare, but quotes the playwright’s work in a more personal adaptation.  In CALIBAN, the many types of human power relations are condensed in just one figure.  Perhaps, even today, a small part of Caliban may still be tied up in each and everyone of us.  I only try to loosen up the knots.

Marcos Azevedo

Notes on the Dramaturgy by the actor Marcos Azevedo:

I will try not to be too critical with my own work, at this point wherein I try to expose briefly the creative process involved in the writing of Caliban. I believe I have not yet attained adequate separation between the written text and my work as an actor on stage, or the show itself. Small changes and adaptations continue to occur, and great part of the text we have today is the result of improvisations and recent rehearsals.

I began my research on Caliban, Shakespeare’s so well known character from “The Tempest”, in 1992 when, while rehearsing for “Macbeth”, I searched for greater contact with the Shakespearean Universe. The singular condition of this character which, for me, was a resonance of the American colonization process, seduced me. This was Shakespeare commenting about Brazil, even if indirectly. The influence of Montaigne’s “Cannibal *****” on the very text of “The Tempest” is notorious. Shakespeare deliberately made use of entire extracts from Montaigne in his own text.

I elaborated, therefore, a script which made use of many of Caliban’s quotes and descriptions from “The Tempest”, and developed a story parallel to Shakespeare’s; a story about power and servitude from the point of view of who is enslaved.

I saw in Caliban a spectrum of metaphors referring to the origins of Brazilian culture. The script de-contextualized Caliban and presented the character before being colonized, going from servant to slave, a process of degeneration of one’s own culture and physical deformation. I began to work on these ideas and to slowly organize a compilation of newspaper extracts which, in some way, would refer to Caliban’s universe. And in this manner, I continued with the appropriation of concepts and ideas, like Shakespeare did with Montaigne. Like Oswald Andrade suggested in his manifesto, there is no character more appropriate to recreate than Caliban under the vision of Cultural Cannibalism.

I created small inserts at the beginning and end of the text, and also between scenes, sometimes as OFF VOICES, which are contemporary references to the whole plot of Caliban. I believe this to be an inevitably existential piece of work. And so, until I reached a limit situation of auto-destruction, I was careful enough to draw closer what, in English, would seem classical and out-dated to a more colloquial form, without losing meaning. When the savage would speak, I simplified sentence constructions and verb conjugations, making use of my own difficulties with the English language. In this manner, I included “organic mistakes” in the speech process. I drew near the actor’s process to the character.

The rehearsals in London finalized this process. Each new day of experiments with the text would generate transformations to be absorbed. And gradually, the text we have today took form. It is a difficult text to read seen that it directly reflects the acting/show. Caliban is still alive and the stage will continue to transform it. The future is a synonym for new possibilities.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Caliban opened in Edinburgh Fringe festival 97 were it was performed for a week with great success at C Venues. Herewith some comments from the press:

“An intellectually stimulating one-man show”
“A fine piece of physical theatre”
The Scotsman

“A very very good Brazilian company”
“A wonderful performance by a guy called Marcos Azevedo who just radiates energy”
“Absolutely wonderful”
Radio BBC Scotland

“The relationship of Prospero (the European)and Caliban (the native) is seen through the eyes of Caliban, a comical and incredibly charismatic character”
“A theatre play of this scope shows the world the best of Brazilian theatre”
Euro Brazil Press

London Riverside Studios Run
Following Edinburgh, the two weeks run at Riverside Studios, gave the play a good audience and good reviews:

“I don’t know how many people in the past saw in this story a metaphor for European colonisation, but the connections are inescapable today.”
“skilful mime and perception”
“…his writing exerts a sombre power… language as weapon…”
“…in a sadomasochistic relationship, the roles keep flipping”
The Times

“A rare glimpse of Brazilian contemporary theatre,…performed by the explosively energetic and hugely expressive Marcos Azevedo”
“From a script that incorporates, poetry, ballads and news on human rights, the play aims to illustrate the notion that each Brazilian today has inherited the blood of both a Caliban and a Prospero, i.e. a cannibal and a tyrant”
“I would go back to watch it again, if only to see Azevedo’s thrilling enactment of the murder of Prospero… He was shocking, funny and irresistibly passionate.”
The Stage

Comments (5):

  1. Megan Miraval says:

    This rendition of The Tempest called Caliban draws a lot of cultural references into the acting. From this clip, it is evident that there is a process of civilization and colonization of Brazil that can be paralleled to Shakespeare’s original work, even if not a conscious effort originally.. It forces the audience to imagine things that are not necessarily used as props, but are rather implied as aiding in conveying the message through miming…which further proves a sense of simplicity. The fusion of languages used throughout the play also represents the increasing globalization in Brazil and representation of the conjunction of Portuguese, Spanish, English and other dominant languages.

  2. Katherine Leiden says:

    What Megan mentioned about the act of miming props is interesting. Not only does it test the audience’s suspension of disbelief, but it also hits the same note of uniting all these cultures in one performance. Whether the audience member is Spanish, English, Portuguese, or of any other cultural heritage, he or she can imagine what the prop would look like in a way that suits the culture he/she comes from. The props, therefore, in no way shut any audience member out, because an invisible prop is universal.

  3. Maeve Klutch says:

    Watching the beginning of this rendition of The Tempest, I was surprised to see the actor portraying Caliban as a normal human being dressed in Western clothing. Many of the interpretations I have seen of the Tempest (including a version directed at children) characterizes Caliban as a monster or corrupted version of nature; this Brazillian version casts a different impression on the audience, perhaps allowing the audience to see Caliban in a more sympathetic light since he costumed as a real human being. Caliban’s tranformation from a traditionally dressed Westerner to a nearly naked native shakes the foundation of him being a “normal” man, to one who seems to be reacting to an identity crisis. I think this interpretation, then, causes the audience to reevaluate their preconceived ideas of Caliban as a monster on the island, and, perhaps, sway them to see him as a more human and relatable character.

  4. Emily Littlejohn says:

    This adaptation of The Tempest I find particularly interesting in reading the play as an allegory of colonization. Marcos Azevedo’s choice to appear nearly nude seems to reinforce the Elizabethan views of new world natives as uncivilized and primitive, as it closely resembles the portrayal of natives in art of the time. I also find it interesting that the same actor plays both Caliban and Prospero. The question of how monstrous is Caliban is frequently debated in analysis of The Tempest, and I believe the choice to have him portrayed not only as without deformity, but as the same person as Prospero, only a stripped down, simplified state, to lead to a very interesting adaptation.

  5. Maeve Klutch says:

    Watching the beginning of this rendition of The Tempest, I was surprised to see the actor portraying Caliban as a normal human being dressed in Western clothing. Many of the interpretations I have seen of the Tempest (including a version directed at children) characterizes Caliban as a monster or corrupted version of nature; this Brazillian version casts a different impression on the audience, perhaps allowing the audience to see Caliban in a more sympathetic light since he costumed as a real human being. Caliban’s tranformation from a traditionally dressed Westerner to a nearly naked native shakes the foundation of him being a “normal” man, to one who seems to be reacting to an identity crisis. I think this interpretation, then, causes the audience to reevaluate their preconceived ideas of Caliban as a monster on the island, and, perhaps, sway them to see him as a more human and relatable character.

    TAGS: Western, identity crisis, Native perspective, sympathy

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    Caliban

    Type:
    stage
    Year:
    Director:
    Bonito, Eduardo | Productions
    Play:
    Language:
    Venue:
     
    London,United Kingdom