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CASA Festival director Daniel Goldman brings Thebes Land back to the Arcola

PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 September 2017

Thebes Land at the Arcola. Picture: Alex Brenner

Thebes Land at the Arcola. Picture: Alex Brenner

(c) Alex Brenner

The festival celebrates Latin American theatre in the UK and will take place at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston from September 6 to October 7.

Director Daniel GoldmanDirector Daniel Goldman

2001 is the year that changed it all for Daniel Goldman, artistic director of CASA Festival.

The event, which has celebrated Latin American theatre in the UK since 2007 will take place at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston and Southwark Playhouse from September 3.

At the beginning of the new millennium, Goldberg went to Argentina and was stricken by the local social theatre. Those writing and acting could not be any more different from the glossy London’s West End.

“I lived in Argentina for the three years during the economic crisis,” he explains. “I witnessed how theatre was responding to what was going on in the country in an incredibly moving way.”

That theatre was raw, socially engaged and aimed at involving the audience on a deeper level. It urged them to take action. That same urgency lies beneath the core idea of CASA Festival.

“I started the festival with my colleagues. We looked around: there was Latin American music, cinema, art in London, but no Latin American theatre whatsoever. It’s hard and expensive to bring theatre over from there,” Goldman says.

Ten years on, the festival is more ambitious than ever before, going from a ten day event to a full eight-week festival.

“We’ve brought a huge number of companies and shows from across the continent here to the UK. We’re also more engaged with the Latin American communities in London. We’ve found our place.”

When asked why the festival still feels relevant, he has no doubts.

“Audiences keep coming and telling us that our work matters, our shows have won awards. We’re the only art organisation that regularly creates a bridge for that work to come over here.”

Building bridges, not walls, is crucial in time of Brexit. This might be the reason why British theatre “has become much more politically engaged now than it was fifteen years ago”.

“Brexit was a decision to remove ourselves from a particular union, it was an isolationist petition. Yet I haven’t met a theatre artist who is pro-Brexit,” he adds.

“In a post-Brexit Britain, we need to hear different voices. We need to be in touch with those different experiences, those that we could learn and be enriched from. That’s the reason we still do this festival.”

A lesson British theatre could learn from its Latin American counterpart is rethinking things which are taken for granted to go straight to the core of the questions.

“Latin American theatre is politically charged in a way we don’t always go towards in British theatre,” says Goldman.

“We have a show opening the festival which is called Otelo. It’s a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Othello with a life-sized mannequin. The play starts in Act IV to concentrate on Othello killing Desdemona because in Latin American there’s a huge problem with femicide.”

Another work Goldman is proud to have brought across the pond is Thebes Land, which will be at the Arcola Theatre from the September 6 until the October 7.

“I first saw the original version of Thebes Land four years ago in Colombia. I was researching plays to bring over for the festival in the UK and it blew my mind,” he says.

“It’s a piece about people and situations. It’s brilliant and has a sense of the great Latin American writers, like Borges and Bolaño. At the same time, it’s a thriller, like Inception or The Usual Suspects.”

The play, directed by Goldman, debuted at the Arcola last December, and re-imagines the story of Oedipus to tell an unexpected story of redemption.

“We’ve always tried to have a presence across London as an itinerary festival,” he says. “We had the opportunity to come back to the Arcola. It’s a beautiful space, it’s exciting to be in such an East London jewel.”

Thebes Land runs at the Arcola from September 6 to October 7.

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