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Six colleagues own a company in Barcelona. The company is doing “ok” so “the Chinese” naturally want to buy it. These ‘Chinese’ make an offer. Then they lower their offer! The colleagues panic. The Chinese have the cash … does Spain have a future? The colleagues want the Chinese cash. They want to start a new life far far away from Spain, or even Catalonia, which is going to the dogs. It’s not their fault it’s going to the dogs!
Aventura! (Adventure!) written and directed by Alfredo Sanzol and performed by the Barcelona-based company T de Teatre, is an uneasy play, inward-looking and ambiguous. One hopes that its ironies are intentional … but there is never quite enough to go on. According to Sanzol, the play deals with fear. It is this innate and uncontrollable emotion – that the director claims to be “our biggest weakness” – that drives one character into committing a most desperate act. She offers to sell herself bodily to the Chinese buyer to bump up the payments to the others. The company no longer matters, she has become a commodity! It’s quite a gesture.
Yet if it is fear that drives these characters it is one so buried that you’d mistake it for resignation, even apathy. The women saunter up and down the shabby office in high heels and tight skirts, sipping G&Ts. One man remains slumped at the table, the other messes about on a scooter. Are they actually running a business? What does the business produce? Scooters? We are never told. Us-s and them-s are bandied about. Us: the slaves, the victims, the Spanish; them: the authorities, the rich, the Chinese. What about the rich Spanish? What about the poor Chinese? We don’t know.
The colleagues are not at all interested in learning about their foreign buyers. When they expect a Chinese visitor, a Bonsai is stuck on the table to make him feel at home – east is east, right? The ladies propose that they take him to a spa, for surely he longs to enjoy that great Western liberty of soaking with strange women.
Well, there are twists … the Chinaman is actually fluent in English but pretends not to be so he “can listen in to what is said about him”! So, we should not underestimate him! But then when he speaks Chinese it sounds funny, and it gets a laugh out of the audience. Is it an uncomfortable laugh? I’m not sure. And then he does fall for the tartier of his hosts and agrees to pay up for her. Is this more insulting for her, or for him? This is disconcerting.
Aventura! deals with important and difficult subject matter, and should be applauded for doing so. Feelings of desperation before an uncertain future turn us inwards as well as outwards, driving us apart as much as bringing us together. Yet such issues are not sufficiently explored in the play with the result that the production feels half-baked, its meaning remaining gloopy beneath a crust of good intentions.
Thanks to David Ruano for the photos