BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

05/03/2019 - 07/03/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

A play about the human cost of war connects New Zealand with The Spanish Civil War  

Babel Theatre is bringing Ay Carmela, the widely acclaimed Spanish theatre play, to the New Zealand Fringe Festival 2019 (BATS Theatre). A story about the human cost of war set in the Spanish Civil War.

The play tells the story of Carmela and Paulino a couple of Spanish travelling entertainers, that mistakenly cross the border separating the two opposing sides of the war. Unexpectedly, they end up in Belchite, a village recently conquered by the National Army. Carmela and Paulinoare forced to improvise a theatrical evening to celebrate the defeat of the enemy. What begins as an entertaining tribute to the victors ends as a tragic comedy.

New Zealanders participating in the Spanish Civil War?
The play also explores the connection of New Zealand with the Spanish Civil War through the role of the International Brigades (the prisoners), played by local actors as extras. Mark Derby, a historian and writer from Wellington, has written two historical books (Kiwi Compañeros and Petals&Bullets) about the New Zealanders that went to help Spain in the Spanish Civil War against fascism, as part of the International Brigades. Mark Derby’s books will be available for sale during the performance of Ay Carmela.

The play is performed in its original language (Spanish).
However, the company has worked hard at adapting the script for an English speaking audience.

Daniel Fernandez (Paulino) and Adriana Yianacou (Carmela) are experienced Spanish actors, resident in New Zealand. Ian Sinclair(war journalist and flamenco guitar player from New Zealand) joins them as The Narrator(in English) and brings his flamenco guitar live on stage, creating a unique atmosphere. Ay Carmela was performed in Auckland in August 2018 as part of the International Theatre Festival, organized by TAPAC.

The company is very proud of bringing International Theatre to Aotearoa and to create an opportunity to give visibility to the Spanish and Latin American community, as part of the cultural diversity present in this country.

“We wanted to take the audience to another time, when the world was facing challenges that would change the shape of the human history forever”, says Daniel Fernandez, actor, producer and director.

“I didn’t need to understand the language. Your superb acting had me under your spell. You told the story with your heart, body and soul” – Auckland audience member.

“Although I do not speak Spanish and knew the basic story, I was fully entertained and gripped by the outstanding performances from both actors. Their palpable and comedic execution soared and delighted their audience every step of the way” – Margaret-Mary Hollins

BATS THEATRE, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
5th to 7th March 2019
8:30 pm

Cultural diversity as a creative tool.
Babel Theatre is a collaborative company created in 2017 (Auckland) that promotes the use of cultural diversity as a creative tool. The company intertwines a variety of backgrounds and skills, like physical theatre, music, and circus, to create stories that ask questions about the world that we live in. 

Carmela: Adriana Yianacou (Spain)
Paulino: Daniel Fernandez (Spain)
Narrator: Ian Sinclair (New Zealand)
Oscar Arnold (New Zealand)
Max Nunes (New Zealand-Brasil)
Richard Rhys Christy-Jones (New Zealand)
Pamela Collova (Argentina)
Reuben Kura Sanderson (New Zealand)
Mohamed Osman (Somalia)

Production and Marketing: Daniel Fernandez
Direction: Daniel Fernandez and Gerardo Milessi
Lights & Sound Assistant: Eduardo Larrinaga (Mexico)
Costumes: Pamela Sanchez Munoz

Spanish Embassy in New Zealand
Creative NZ

Theatre , Music ,

1 hr 30 min

An aesthetically stimuling exploration of the rare, contradictory and paradoxical nature of the human condition

Review by Jorge Morales 06th Mar 2019

When nothing else seems to make sense, art provides one of the few channels to rationalize, understand or at least cope with what is left of the human condition. Ay Carmela – written by Jose Sanchis Sinisterra, and directed by Daniel Fernandez and Gerardo Milessi – does exactly that and does it wonderfully.

Ay Carmela is set in a world of contrasts, republicans and fascists, soldiers and civilians, true believers and people wanting to get by, living and dead. All of the above converges in a 90-minute expedition into the tragic existence of two artists trapped in the middle of one brutal and tragic event: the Spanish civil war.

We are taken into a performance within the main performance. When Paulino (Danie Fernandez) and Carmela (Adriana Yianacou) suddenly realise they have crossed the fascist camp they have to perform to the fascists while seeking a means to eascape.

The performance starts with an audiovisual introduction to the context of the Spanish civil war which, although is not completely in tune with the pace and thread of the performance, does a great job in setting the ambience and context to what follows. Immediately after, the audience faces the dichotomy of living and dead. Paulino, who is trapped in the sorrow of life, engages in a heated and passionate dialogue with his love, Carmela, who sadly is in the realm of the dead. From that point onwards, the narrative of how they found themselves there begins to unfold.

Althought it is performed throughout in Spanish, the language should not be a barrier. Ian Sinclair – whose flamenco guitar accompanies the action intermittently, adding an aesthetic element that embellishes the plot –also talks directly to the audience in English, explaining the different phases of the narrative.

Paulino and Carmela, through their fantastic vocal presence, take the audience through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, of their journey. With a varied stream of aesthetic stimulii interplaying, the performance explores the rare, contradictory and paradoxical nature of the human condition.

Wardrobe changes (costumes by Pamela Sanchez Munoz) provide a visual aid to the audience as to what is the sentiment at any given moment and merge into the plot as well. Paulino, for the most part, remains the same, which is in line with his existential and political stance. Carmela provides a vivid contrast in her wardrobe changes, which serves to signal the shifts between joy and despair, exasperation and resignation, living and dead.

The performance closes with the resolution of both narratives: the personal journey of Carmela and Paulino and the show they have had to put on for the fascists. The difference stances each character takes toward the same situation results in different outcomes. Thus the same event provides closure to both threads and elicits the paradoxical absurdity that living in such an atrocious state of affairs can be worse than death when one takes a moral and political stance.

While such such dichotomies, questions and debates are opened up, we are left to make up our own minds about them. When all is done and said, beyond the socio-political intricacies, regardless of language, allegiance and culture, what remains is a barebones set of fundamental questions and emotions entrenched in the human condition.

All in all, this is a superb performance that is not to be missed.


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