Daniel Goldman talks to LAB about why Latin American theatre remains an unknown quantity in the UK, his fascination with links and patterns, and why Casa will not be taking place next year
Ella Jessell: Latin American poets, novelists and artists are known across the world. Why is its theatre less recognised?
Daniel Goldman: It’s a really simple answer. It’s harder to move. You can take a photograph and show it, you can take a photo of a mural, cinema is easy to make travel and a novel can be printed, but theatre is hard to move. It boils down to logistics. Also, Britain is really, really hard to get into. Three years ago we wanted to bring a Bolivian theatre group Teatro de los Andes, one of Latin America’s biggest theatre companies. They have gone all over the world and played in 65 different countries.
We tried to get them to the festival and the government said they needed visas. In order to show you are not an economic migrant and you are not going to do a runner once you get to the UK, you need to show you have a bank account with £600 in it, and you have never dipped under that in the last six months. Out of seven members of the company, six did not even have bank accounts. They kept their money in cash underneath their beds!
Ella Jessel: Why did you decide to focus this year’s festival on Mexico?
Daniel Goldman: It’s the first year we have concentrated on one country. Moving forward what we will probably do is have a focus on one country because it is really interesting to do that, and then one company from four or five other countries. The real joy of having a focus is that you can go into a lot of detail. With five shows from Mexico, and one show from Brazil, you can go into more depth, you can give a more profound sense of what is going on in one country, and you can programme work that is not all from the same place.
What tends to happen is that even if you are trying really hard to programme work from a city that isn’t the capital of the country, 90 per cent of the work you receive or see at festivals is work being made in the capital. The thing I am really pleased about with this programme is I could bring work that was not just from Mexico City, even if Mexico City gets 60 per cent of the country’s arts budget. That said, I really miss the wider range of countries. With a wide range you start building a web. I’m fascinated by links and patterns. Patterns are my big thing. I have patterns in my Mexican show but not in my countries.
Ella Jessel: How do the different regions differ in terms of the kinds of theatre produced?
Daniel Goldman: Regions have different issues. We’ve got a show from Monterrey about the massive issue of the relationship with the US border and the machismo of the men of that area. You wouldn’t get a company from Mexico City able to make a show about that and be authentic. It is great to be able to get a panorama. If I was only picking one Mexican show, it would be vey hard for me to go ‘can I ignore the disappeared? Can I ignore the drugs?’ But it can become a bit stereotypical.
Ella Jessel: It is just weeks since the anniversary of the Ayotzinapa massacre so it is unsurprising the subject is tackled by many of the plays at the festival. It seems the majority of the plays featured politics in some way. Is this typical of Latin American theatre?
Daniel Goldman: It’s easy to be socio-politically engaged if it’s your reality. If your parents lived under a dictatorship, if your grandparents disappeared, if the generation above you were guerilla fighters, or if you live in Mexico today and 180,000 people have been murdered or disappeared in the last ten years. Eleven years ago I came back from Argentina and thought, there is no socio-political theatre in the UK. I think that has completely changed. In British theatre entertainment is still the number one objective but there are political theatre-makers. Argentine theatre has become less political as the country has come out of its crisis.
Ella Jessel: Casa is not happening next year. Why not ?
Daniel Goldman: A few reasons. The first is that it’s really hard to raise the money you need for an arts festival, and this year we received a painful cut of £51,000 from the Arts Council England, which is significant when your funding has been growing. But the positive reason is that 2017 will be our tenth anniversary. We haven’t given ourselves time to think or plan so it will give us a chance to breathe and think about what we really want the next festival to be about.