A new play by Argentinian Director Lola Arias, for the LIFT Theatre Festival in London
This June marks the 34th anniversary of the end of the war over the Malvinas/Falklands islands between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Not an especially important milestone perhaps, but for those who fought in the south Atlantic and have had to live with the consequences ever since, every day is filled with memories of what they saw and were called on to do during more than two months of fighting.
As part of the LIFT theatre festival, Argentinian director Lola Arias has created Minefield, in which six former combatants (three from Argentina, three from the UK) relive their experiences of that war.
According to Lola: ‘The work is a way of thinking about what the war meant for those who fought it, and those who only saw it on television. Minefield is a study on the collateral damage of war in a group of veterans and in society. It’s also a social experiment, to see what happens if you bring together former enemies to reconstruct history.’
The veterans tell their individual stories and re-enact some of the most dramatic moments they lived through during the conflict. The former Argentinian private Marcelo Vallejo recalls how he fired his mortar at the advancing British troops, and recalls how he ‘wanted to beat the shit out of them’, and was ready and willing to kill.
As he admits in the play ‘it’s very hard to recover from that feeling’. He himself spent years after the war with drink and drug problems, and attempted suicide. ‘I often ask myself why they didn’t just shoot me and leave me there with the others’.
On the British side, Lou Armour was among the original detachment of Royal Marines captured when the Argentinian forces invaded the islands on 2 April 1982 (although for the Argentinian military this was the ‘recuperation’ of what they claim was originally their territory) and later returned to fight.
‘In 82 when I saw Argentinians for the first time, they were arrogant. The second time they were wounded or dead, the third time they were defeated. Now we are all fifty something year-old veterans of the same war,’ he says.
Others taking part in Minefield include a survivor from the Argentinian cruiser Belgrano sunk by a British submarine on 2 May 1982, and a ghurka soldier, Sukrim Rai. In the play, he is anxious to stress that ‘we ghurkas are not savages. ‘We followed the rules of war: to act or die. Both the Argentinians and the British were only doing their duty. That’s all.’
Director Lola Arias has previously presented videos of Argentinian veterans’ experiences and memories. But bringing combatants from the two sides together for the first time presented fresh challenges, she says:
‘You never know how people are going to react to the experiment of reconstructing their own lives. Before the rehearsals, we went to ask advice from a centre offering psychological advice to veterans. But in the end, it’s the process of building the work that helps define things.’
Out of this process has come, she hopes, a new understanding for all those involved in the fighting. As Lou Armour concludes: ‘Now I can see the Argentinians as friends. It’s been the best experience of my life’.
Venue: Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square London SW1W 8AS
Thursday, June 2, 2016 – 19:30 to Saturday, June 11, 2016. More details here (LIFT)
Tickets here (Royal Court Theatre)
In English and Spanish with English surtitles.