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Anyone who has spent any length of time in the mediterranean city of Barcelona is going to get pissed off with the place. Oh yes, it might seem ideal from where you’re standing, but there’s a point when the joie de vivre starts to feel insipid, the drugs don’t work, the pork products constipate, the flags seem superfluous, you get tired of hearing about Picasso, and you’ve had ‘that experience’ one too many times with an Argentinian.
You know you’ve reached that point when you can no longer tell yourself that working for booking.com with a hangover is fine “because I’m still on holiday”. That point when the term ‘guiri‘ begins to grate at your mind as the uncharitable insult that it always was, even when posited in pseudo-affectionate tones. Or, even worse, when it dawns on you that its appropriation by those to whom it was originally applied is merely a euphemism for the term ‘expat’, with its aires of snooty condescension and exclusivity. At that point (I’m getting round to it), just when you can’t take it anymore, in bounces the lovely À la ville de … Barcelona, a fantastic, all-singing, some-dancing, Catalan and Spanish language theatre production, created and directed by Joan Ollé! First performed at 2012’s Grec Festival, the production has been updated and is presently on at Barcelona’s Lliure Theatre until November 3rd – with English and Spanish surtitles hovering above the stage on Saturday nights.
A homage to the city in the old-fashioned music hall style, À la ville … presents an eclectic selection of events, characters and landmarks dating back from the beginning of Barcelona’s history to the present day. Like rounds of local tapas and DO vinos, you might not get what every bit of the thing is about, but, overall, the show pulls off a coherent vision of a city that all relative residents share. Fun and funny, entertaining and clever, unflinching and uplifting, aside from Ivan Benet’s mischievous impersonation of the mayor, Xavier Trias, the best thing about À la ville … is its inclusivity.
Like all big cities, Barcelona is thoroughly artificial. Just bar crawl the entire metro network and you’ll discover how distinct each area is. The former villages of Gràcia, Horta or Sant Andreu became ‘Barcelona’ only in theory, when the road grid known as L’Eixample is envisaged as netting them in. In fact, the most archetypal native becomes a foreigner in a matter of bus stops. This really very nice production reminds us that most people living in Barcelona, no matter where they were born, feel in some way left out of the place – be it through the city’s pitiless evolution, its infuriating lack of evolution, its curious quirks, or its life-draining conservatism, it is when you finally except that you are not alone in feeling left out that … well! you can get along with loving the place that you call home.
À la ville de … Barcelona by Joan Ollé
Teatre Lliure – Montjuic, Barcelona until November 3
The production is in Catalan with surtitles in Spanish and English on Saturday nights, 9pm.
Click here for a bargain ticket
Thanks to David Ruano for the photos