The Arts are suffering in Portugal!  It’s a difficult time to get funding.  Of course it’s not just the Arts it’s also cultural organisations, the glue of society, that are suffering.  In Tavira, in the Algarve, only 4 associations have received funding this year.  Some groups are still waiting for funding from last year.  A theatre building was given by the Council to AL- MaSRAHtheatre group, but they will not allow the group to use it as it is not fit for the public to enter.

AL-MaSRAH theatre – closed

They are one of the groups who are still waiting for the funds from 2011.  Despite this, Tela Leao invited the theatre group and 4 artists to join and develop an idea.  She made a proposal to the association of Al-Masrah Theatre with a singer, a dancer, a musician to create and develop a production based upon her writing.  The play “Tell me Other Fados” is now being performed  over three Sundays in the Vila Gale hotel

Tela, is a Brazilian actress, now  a playwright, who first performed in Portugal in 1971.  She was part of a modern theatre group who pushed at the barriers of thought and acceptable behaviour.  The play was called “The automobiles graveyard.”  The play was banned in Portugal even before the performance, but the courageous Producer, Ruth Escobar, brought a Brazilian company and smuggled the Spanish writer  Fernando Arrabal, into the performance.  The play was performed in a junk graveyard.  The whole crew participated in burning old cars in a space and the area was then covered with a tent to make an unusual theatre.

It’s in an unusual theatre where the play “Tell me Other Fados” is being performed.  They cannot use the AL-MaSRAH theatre, so they are performing on stage in the Villa Gale hotel, opposite the new Market in Tavira.   This play explores Portuguese culture through music, dance and story.   It looks at what is considered the norm and questions stereotypical concepts of Portuguese sadness and behaviour.   The play has four people on stage, a musician, a dancer, a singer and a storyteller.  The singer /actress Catarina Viegas now lives in Fuseta and says she feels she “sang in her mother’s belly”.  She sings Fado and other traditional music throughout the play as the story explores what is Fado and where its roots can be found.   At only 24 she has a wonderful voice that is able to convey the story also through comedy and acting.   At the same time a Brazilian dancer, Adriana Castro, interprets the songs and stories and the drama of Africa flows through the play.  She is a classical trained ballet dancer, but also uses street dance and other movements to create her own choreography.   She adds expertise, beauty and colourful movement to the play.

Adriana, Tela and Catarina

The play allows for each actor to rest between individual performances.   The dancer and singer sit on chairs when the story-teller, Pedro Ramos, shares terrifying, poignant and funny tales.  The story of Modinha by Tom Jobin e Vinicius de Moraes is one example and is interpreted by a musician playing the guitar.  This is a Bosonova piece and this contrasts with the next story narrated by Pedro who explains, how a mother’s heart is in the centre of Fado from the Arab world.   He tells an old Arab tale of a bride who asks her lover to bring to her his mother’s heart.  The lover rips out the heart, but on the way to the bride he trips and drops the heart on the ground.  The heart speaks to him and says “oh, my son, are you hurt?  Come and pick me up.  I am still yours”.  This story made its way around the world to emerge in Brazil in the mid-1950’s as Coração Materno by Vicente Celestino  There are about 18 different songs or stories and an interplay of cultures can be seen through the music and dance.

Tela’s work has evolved out of a lifetime of experience, not least as one of the programme organisers for Portugual’s cultural contribution to Expo 2000 in Hanover.  As part of that programme, Tela, brought together visual arts, poetry, puppets, musicians, such as the now famous percussionist Pedro Carneiro, a magician, pop music and dancers.   This kind of collaboration is never easy, but the results create an opportunity that is not often seen in mainstream theatres.  New writing in this case should be celebrated and explored when the opportunity arises.

The play “Tell me Other Fados” can be seen at 10pm at the  Vila Gale hotel in Tavira on Sunday 19th and 26th August and also on the 9th September.  If you get tickets ahead of time they are half price 8 Euros on the door and 4 Euros pre-booked .  Contact Tela at telaleao@gmail.com for more information or booking