Circle Mirror Transformation (Joc de Miralls), by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Annie Baker, is a sweet, funny and quietly tragic little play that shines light on the lives of five individuals who take part in a theatre workshop for beginners in a local civic centre. The title refers to one of a series of quirky group exercises that make up the play’s mini-scenes. We join these exercises mid-way and leave before they end, so bit-by-bit we are asked to piece together the lives of each of the protagonists.
Directed by Juan Carlos Martel Bayod, Joc de Miralls is a fantastic Catalan version of the play, staged at Espai Lliure in Barcelona until mid March. The American setting is transferred to a local one and the names slightly altered, this maintains its atmosphere of authenticity while establishing intimacy between the characters and the audience.
Each of the five has something to give and something to hide: the over exuberant Teresa (Aina Clotet) conceals her insecurity, and seeks support in doomed relationships with older men. Mopey yet intuitive high-school student Laura (Elena Tarrats) is haunted by the troubled relationship of her parents. Middle-aged carpenter Xus (Eduard Farelo) finds solace in the furniture he makes, and looks to others to bring meaning to his life. Their indefatigable instructress Martina (Isabel Rocatti) determinedly ploughs on through some rather misfired exercises, while her ‘ideal’ marriage to Jaume (Jordi Martínez) falls apart at the seams.
Annie Baker said in an interview: “The way human beings speak is so heartbreaking to me—we never sound the way we want to sound. We’re always stopping ourselves in mid–sentence because we’re so terrified of saying the wrong thing. Speaking is a kind of misery.” (Huffington Post)
This is a play of such ‘natural’ stilted, self-edited conversations, awkward silences and impulsive gestures. There is both the strange intimacy that springs up between strangers, and the estrangement that can divide those in long-term relationships. Yet moments of joy, unexpected connections, and the sort of discoveries we make about ourselves only through contact with others, also occur as the play evolves, like life does, in little fits and starts. Without epic narratives or climatic moments of revelation, this is a theatre as close to life as life often is to theatre.
Joc de Miralls by Annie Baker, dir. Juan Carlos Martel Bayod
until March 15th, 2015
Espai Lliure – Barcelona
THANK YOU! Begoña Barrena and to Ros Ribas for the photos