We walk through a dark corridor into a room where a woman is drying wine glasses. She lifts them one by one from a tin bucket of water and dries each one slowly, carefully. Each glass holds a memory: in this one (she holds it up) passionate kisses. In this one (she holds up another) secrets told throughout the night. In this one, words – words that led nowhere. And in this one the anger and despair of not being able to understand. And with this one, perhaps, (she holds up a glass and looks us all in the eye) one of you was born. This is the opening of Teatro de los Sentidos’ newest production Reneixer (To Be Reborn), at the Napoli Teatro Festival 2019. Teatro de los Sentidos (Theatre of the Senses) does not so much stage plays as create multi-sensory worlds to explore. Now in their 25th year, they are the originators of contemporary immersive and interactive ritual-theatre. The woman continues: “Everything has to do with silence. When we are born, we break that silence for a moment, and then we spend our whole lives searching for it. When we die we find it again.” She pauses. “Do you know what the worst enemy of silence is?” Pause. “Words.” Reneixer has many silences, but few words – those that are spoken are whispered. It allows us to live in the death and isolation of silence, and to be reborn into the life and community of words.
She invites us to enter the next room, where five actors are seated at file-covered desks. One by one we give them our names, ages, and addresses. Based on that information, we are given cigar boxes filled with things that have been lovingly kept as physical reminders of important memories: a pair of sunglasses, playing cards, a hair ribbon, a red crayon. We are given time to explore these bits and bobs that now represent a life, and to ask ourselves: What is left at the end of life? What do we remember? How do we remember? What is important?
We close the boxes and move into a room full of tents – we are each led into a tent, and seated in a circle around a mound of earth. Our guide whispers a story: once there was a town (she makes a hole in the soil), by the sea (she draws waves in the soil), with a volcano nearby, and there was a tree – she places a small tree in the soil. They kept the secret of the earth. Generation after generation. One generation did not. She takes out the tree and erases the imprint of the sea.
She digs up a grape and we play with it, rolling it around five sets of hands. She pulls out a cloth-covered pan, pours grapes into it, and invites us to squish the grapes with our fingers until we have made grape juice. She digs in the soil for a bottle, and we fill the bottle with our grape juice. She passes it around for us to smell – it smells loamy, rich, sweet, warm. She buries the bottle.
We put our hands on the mound of soil and, to my surprise, it has a heartbeat. I feel the earth’s beating heart. We lay our heads on the mound and are covered with black cloth so that we are, ourselves, buried in the earth. One with the earth. Ashes to ashes. This is the most powerful climate change theatre piece I have ever experienced.
After a few minutes, our guide helps us sit up again. We are reborn – with a greater feeling for our connection to an earth that is alive. Our guide digs for the bottle and again passes it around for us to smell – but this time we smell the acidity of white wine. The grapes have been transformed into wine. The seasonal life-cycles of death and rebirth meet Dionysus, the god of wine and theatre. Perhaps we too can be transformed – into people who respect the natural world.
We are blindfolded and joined with a dance partner. The entire room is dancing. Here Teatro de los Sentidos demonstrates their mastery of interactivity: the art of the invitation, the build of trust, the scaffolding of activity. The first song is slow to allow us to get our bearings, the second is faster as we gain confidence, and the third is a polka-like celebration.
Our blindfolds are removed, and we are each led to one of several small circles, where we sit on wooden vegetable crates. We are given glasses and prosecco. We toast: to life, to the senses, to the musicians, to each other, to the show, to grapes. To memory. To being reborn.
Our host leads us back to the tent and presses a small gift into our palms: when I open it at home, it is a bit of soil wrapped in cheesecloth. A reminder of all that I have thought, felt, tasted, touched, smelled, and heard. A bit of earth to cherish and protect.
Director: Enrique Vargas
Dramaturgy: Enrique Vargas & Theater De Los Sentidos
Coordination Artistic: Gabriella Salvaterra
Technical Direction: Gabriel Hernandez
Lights: Pancho Garcia
Soundscape: Stephane Laidet
Music: Pancho Garcia
Costumes: Patrizia Menichelli
Landscape Analysis: Joan Pezzullo
Scene And Installations: Gabriella Salvaterra
Organization: Claudio Ponzana
Residents: Chiara Baffi ,Pancho Garcia, Gabriel Hernandez, Arianna Marano, Patrizia Menichelli, Giovanna Pezzullo, Gabriella Salvaterra, Daniela Cossu, Joan Gerard Torredeflot
Production: Theater De Los Sentidos
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.