REVIEW: Pau Miró’s Els Jugadors (The Players)

Prolonged! See it at Lliure – Gràcia between 20th June and 1st July.

It’s one of those Barcelona kitchens that look like it was added on as an afterthought. A microwave best kept clear of, a crappy radio, empty bottles of Gin Giro clustering on grimy surfaces with other even less salubrious brands. The clock is stuck at quarter past nine, too late for work or too early for dinner. The fridge contains a shrink-wrapped tortilla.

Els Jugadors - the Players - by Pau Miró. Photo: Ros Ribas 2In this disconcertingly familiar setting, a trio of middle-aged washouts gather. An out of work actor (Jordi Boixaderas), a gravedigger (Jordi Bosch) and a barber (Boris Ruiz) pose a pathetic parade in this crumby kitchen. They are the poker pals of its owner, a teacher of mathematics (Andreu Benito), and are waiting for him to descend – as he eventually does, with all the sweaty gravity of Hitchcock with a hangover, for he is in serious trouble.

Safety in Numbers

Els Jugadors (The Players), a play written and directed by Pau Miró, is a contemporary tragi-comedy in which the tragic hero is society itself. In it, a group of apparently innocuous men take their revenge on a world that they feel pushed out of; that “has changed”. Yet not one of them is capable of admitting any responsibility for creating that society, a world of supermarket chains and shoddy apartments, of fiddling the figures for a fast buck.

Els Jugadors - the Players - by Pau Miró. Photo: Ros Ribas 3

gravedigger, actor, teacher, barber

Atmospheric and ingenious, the most disturbing thing about this excellent production at the Teatre Lliure in Gràcia (Barcelona) is that you feel pathos, even affection, for this thoroughly nasty group of cretins, these “crocodiles” whose ‘friendship’ is based on poker games and an inflated sense of self worth; they gather not because they like each other but because there is safety in numbers. “This is the place that most feels like home,” as the gravedigger whimsically states.

“fills de puta”

Gin GiróThe barber has sold out of his business and dare not face the wife, who, he whines, is cheating on him: “the bed looked too well made”. The actor has resorted to stealing from supermarkets, so desperate for attention that, he admits, “It’s the thrill of getting caught that I like”. The gravedigger is in love with a Ukrainian prostitute because “she rides him like a horse” and “makes him feel alive”. And the teacher, so aggrieved by having a mathematical error pointed out to him by a “mediocre pupil,” smashes the boy’s head in.

The world is against them: the women in the play are cheats and prostitutes. Those of the younger generation – lucky enough to be one of the 50% who have jobs, as security guards and bank tellers – they treat with utter distain. Larios Dry GinThe actor sneers at the “subnormal individual with spots on his face, as they always do …” who catches him pinching gin, even though he is let off. The gravedigger, who, in his jowl-trembling fits of passive aggression might well be the most cold-hearted of the four, believes: “Like it or not, violence is what works: someone has to let the next generation know that it’s not their turn yet.” Even the playwright admits that his characters turned out to be “més fills de puta del que em pensava”, (more sons of bitches than I thought).


Pau Miró

Pau Miró

Els Jugadors, the third play by the actor and director Pau Miró (Barcelona, 1974), is an intriguing examination of society in internal crisis in which another conspicuous absence are those of his own age group. The would-be professional class in their 30s and 40s are those burdened with the task of weeding out the woodworm, who not only occupy positions of public power but who bury themselves in the private sphere too, making them even harder to get at. As the teacher in Els Jugadors chillingly says: “Who would notice us? We’re invisible”. 

Thank you to Lliure / Ros Ribas for the photos
and the critic Andreu Gomila from whom I pinched Pau’s quote.

Els Jugadors - the Players - by Pau Miró. Photo: Ros Ribas 1See Els Jugadors at Teatre Lliure – Gràcia until May 20th and then, due to popular demand, between 6th and 17th June.
The play is in Catalan.
Prices from €16 – €25.
Check telentrada for discounts until April 28th.