Features Published 30 September 2014

CASA Latin American Theatre Festival

This year's CASA Festival launched in September with a 'night of ideas' at London's Rose Lipman building. Rebecca Morris was there to sample the highlights.
Rebecca Morris

It’s Saturday night on a leafy residential street in Haggerston. CASA is about to launch its 2014 festival of Latin American Theatre with a ‘Night of Ideas’. Inspired by the Institut Francais’ ‘Night with Philosophers’  – an all night festival of philosophical discussion, food and wine – it led to an interesting evening, with the cross-disciplinary nature of the event and communal vibe providing a welcome flavour of CASA’s ethos as well as the work it would showcase.

From the 10th-19th of October, the CASA festival will be bringing artists from all over South America to present a programme of performances, events and workshops at a number of venues in London, including the Rose Lipman Building, Rich Mix and the Barbican. The festival was originally inspired by the idea of Buenos Aires’ Casas de la Cultura – meaning homes converted into makeshift arts centres. CASA has been running for eight years now and this year’s program is particularly focused on ideas of revolution and resistance in Latin America. The shows on this year’s line-up span satire, physical theatre, mime and music.

Chilean actor-musicians Tryo Teatro Banda are premiering La Araucana / The Araucaniad at Barbican. Go if you like your satire mixed with history: the show is a subversive take on Spanish poet Don Alonso de Ercilla’s 1555 Golden Age epic about the conquest of Chile. There is more of this irreverent style in Caldo Con Enjundia’s Población Arenera’s/ The Sand Settlers, a bawdy piece about a 1940s boxer who inspired revolution.

CASA are also doing their bit for emerging work with the return of Nuestra CASA Scratch Night, an award supporting the development of new work by British-LatAm artists. Alongside all of this, there will be – we are told – lots of late night dancing and music, something for which this ‘Night of Ideas’ makes an appropriate performative aperitif.

The all-night fiesta at the Rose Lipman Building, combined art, politics, food and drinks, the stairs and café bustling with people moving from room to room, sipping beer, munching on empanadas (prepared by Pimentón Empanadas) or knocking back coffee in preparation for the long night ahead. From early on, people were in high spirits. I’ll admit I didn’t quite make it to breakfast, served at 5.30am, but when I left it looked as if it promised to be a lively night.

Tryo Teatro Banda

Tryo Teatro Banda

In the Hall upstairs, Tierra Peru restaurant was dishing out traditional Peruvian food alongside live and interactive performance. Around eight o’clock, Nelson Galante got us into the swing of things, leading ‘an interactive Bio-dance experiment’ – a dance that is less reliant on skill and more on expressing your inner self.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the Living Room, a crowd was gathering to watch a series of discussions and debates, covering everything from sex and literature.  I popped in during ‘Who’s casa is it anyway?’ a debate about Latin American immigration in the UK’. Planned discussions for later in the evening included the legalising drugs, sexuality and salsa. The beauty of this ‘Night of Ideas’ was its multiplicity with numerous events going on at once; I found myself gravitating mostly towards the film showings in the Kitchen, where festival-goers sat on beanbags, sofas, chairs and the floor, cheering and whooping as artists spoke to us informally about their work. The films were a mix of documentaries about Latin American history or recent community projects. There was Brasiliance by Stonecrabs Theatre – a series of filmed oral histories with Brazilians in London that we chose to watch by vote. Michael Chanan’s documentary, Protest charted the recent history of Chilean politics and the fight against Pinochet using historical footage.

It was convivial and relaxed, an atmosphere that really epitomised this particular event. I liked that the films dealt with challenging topics to the fore in a way that was open to all, opening up discussion rather than being didactic or polemical.

In a similar spirit, there will be events, screenings and fiestas taking place throughout the festival, with the sharing of traditional food integral to the experience. On opening night, 10th October, The Sand Settlers will be followed by dinner with the artists.

The CASA Latin American Theatre Festival runs from 10th-19th October 2014 at Rose Lipman Building, Rich Mix and the Barbican.


Rebecca Morris is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine



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