In this fabulously intense and manipulative Spanish-language drama by Franco-Uruguayan playwright Sergio Blanco, Martín, a young man who has murdered his father, becomes a material resource for S, an earnest if smug playwright-professor. The latter wants to make a play about parricide, a modern theatrical take on the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex; the former is enlisted as his informant and his leading actor.
They meet in a cage: the prison basketball court, where S gains Martín’s confidence and massages his own creative ego; taking notes, abstracting and idealising his subject matter, tweaking perceptions and perceived anomalies, adding a soundtrack, fabricating something poetic and suitable for the contemporary stage out of a case of extreme domestic abuse.
As the play is formed (and progresses), Martín fades into Fede: an actor employed to play his role. This, at the insistence of a persistently meddling government ministry that gradually restricts Martín’s part as protagonist and then as audience member. The paternal power game of intellectual superiority between playwright and prisoner swivels to that of the boot-stamping paternalism of the State, a serial emailer with something to hide.
Superbly crafted, directed (Natalia Menéndez) and acted (Pablo Espinosa as Martín / Fede and Pablo Gómez-Pando as S), Tebas Land is a profound yet entertaining and accessible play about shifting perspectives, reality vs art, male relationships, control and desire. S’s interest in Martín walks a thin line between empathy and exploitation; Martín, his muse, soon clocks on to his own physical and emotional power over the playwright. The exchanges between the men intensify towards the end, but remain ever ambiguous. Their parting embrace could mean anything and nothing.
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya
A British version of the play Thebes Land adapted by Daniel Goldman, won Best Production at the 2016 Off West End awards.