Contemporary Theatre Company
Contemporary Actors Company is a company of actors and performing artists dedicated to independent and contemporary theatre.
The company was founded in 2015 by Carolina Rivas. It has produced two plays: Ridiculous Man (2018) and La historia de un árbol (2015).
Barcelona 2018. Dur. 90 min. Direction and dramaturgy: Carolina Rivas. Cast: Albert Franch, Zafirah Sarhandi. Narrator: Mariona Casanovas.
The play, Ridiculous Man, is an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story, Dream of a Ridiculous Man, and was also based on a true news story: the story of Constantin Reliu, a Romanian migrant worker who was presumed dead in Romania after disappearing in Turkey and who, after 10 years, reclaimed his identity papers to return to his homeland. The play premiered on 6 October 2018 at the Teatro Carro de Baco in Barcelona as part of the Fusion Gramenet Forum of the Obra Social la Caixa. It was later presented at Teatro de Drassanes, in Barcelona
Audience capacity: 186 people.
The story of a tree
Barcelona, 2015. Dur. 75 min. Text and Direction: Carolina Rivas. A cast of 30 actors including: Albert Franch, Mariona Casanovas, David Font, Montserrat Selles, and Toni Vives.
The Story of a Tree is a play that tenderly touches upon the topic of refugees shipwrecked in the Mediterranean Sea. It premiered on 28 November 2015 at Teatro La Colmena, and also played in other theatres around Barcelona: Porta 4, RAI, and Centre Cívic Drassanes.
The Story of a Tree is set in Roblevillage, a small town with a harbour bearing an eye-catching charm: an oak tree. The children climb the tree to watch the ships sail out of the harbour. These are tough times; a time ridden by crisis. A group of fishermen sell their boat to migrants to make money. During the night, a storm strikes a boat in the night. The storm continues. In the darkness, nothing is what it seems. Seventy-two people are dead, but who is to blame? A mysterious witness who has seen it all intervenes in the story: this witness is a tree. During the exodus of a population in search of survival, the tree averts a catastrophe from unfolding.
Audience capacity: 366 people
(Spain 2015, Dir. Carolina Rivas)
Review RIDICULOUS MAN
by Cristophe Cung
Is life above the law or is the law above life?
With this statement in mind, during our troubled times, only unconditional love is believed to be the last hope. Such is the premise of Carolina Rivas’ latest stage work RIDICULOUS MAN (based on a short story written in 1877 by Fyodor Dostoevski).
Set in contemporary Catalonia, the play features Albert Franch, who plays Nikov, a humble migrant tailor who arrived in Barcelona enticed by the promise of a job as a dishwasher. However, in the wake of the country’s economic crisis, Nikov falls victim to eviction. Unable to pay his rent, and his sole property being his clothes, fate leads him into an unrelenting downward spiral.
As this poor Romanian migrant who is overwhelmed by loneliness, this situation raises universal and existential matters to reflect on life. A second character unexpectedly appears on stage: a lost soul named Natasha, whom Nikov challenges. She is a teenager searching for help: her mother was taken from her by the police at a demonstration. The young woman’s testimony is inspired by the dramatic events that transpired in October 2018 during the Catalan independence referendum. Rivas comments (in an interview) that during this period, women activists were dragged through the streets of Barcelona by the police, under the traumatised gaze of their children. This unexpected force of brutality left a lasting impact on the director’s mind.
As an innocent victim, Natasha cannot escape the police’s violent behaviour. Chaos erupted in a “modern democratic” society, making it appear more like a primitive one.
Whether we are in St. Petersburg or Barcelona, there have always been controversial issues that rattle society: conflicts of power, territory, and nationalist disputes. The result is that citizens have ended up diverged by a different flag or different language. Or worse, they have been forced to choose sides.
Thus, Natasha’s character represents a generation who are unfortunately destined to live amongst major unrest. Like many of her peers, this impressionable young woman has lost faith in the authorities, institutions, the government, and police.
And because of the complexity of Barcelona’s political agendas, the stakes are even higher. Politics is what dictates how we coexist, who goes to prison, and who walks free.
Despite the glamorous flair of the Catalan capital, there is a dark side and a sense of uncertainty that undermines society.
Nikov is emblematic of the foreign refugee. Like many disadvantaged people, he came to Spain in search of the promised land. However, unable to integrate into the labour market, he eventually settles on the outskirts of the city in an economically deprived area. He tries to survive by any means possible.
The play, which is based on a true case published by the leading British newspaper, The Guardian, also reflects other anomalies of the law: having a passport, having an identity, or being a dead man. The legislation is not yet suited to the current state of affairs. After eight years in Catalonia, Nikov must leave Spain to renew his passport. By birth he is a Romanian citizen, however, he has been resident in Catalonia with expired documents. Additionally, his name does not appear in any census or data list in his native country. On top of that, a court and some members of his family have declared him dead. The real problem is that while he fights against the relentless bureaucratic system, by law he does not belong to any country: neither to Spain nor to his native Romania (both countries are in the European Union). Here is the real problem: a lack of a sense of belonging and alienation.
With references to the seminal playwright Peter Brook, RIDICULOUS MAN, adapts a minimalist format. In addition to limited props, the choice of innovative sound contributes to the mysterious ambience of the play.
Nikov and Natasha, with their strong values, warn us about humanity: who are we and where are we really going? The play presents a great critique on our current situation and exposes the underlying reasons why sometimes tension is still widely felt.
However, despite the ongoing crisis in the current system, it seems possible to change this pessimistic mindset.
The play’s teachings also reveal the Russian writer’s metaphysical side, a point of view that few of us really know about. Carolina Rivas, through Fyodor Dostoevsky, believes that there exist parallel worlds that allow a life full of harmony. However, such a form of life exists only on another planet. This dream, this aspiration of unconditional love, could transform mass negative perceptions into something greater and more optimistic.
This is what Nikov experienced when he went to another planet and rediscovered what it is to feel again. After returning to our ailing planet, he realised that this feeling could be made possible here.
Although many citizens cannot (or refuse to see) reality for what it is, there is still hope for unconditional love through patience, tolerance and compassion.
Today, let us reflect on the current state of our surroundings without a pessimistic outlook, for it is never too late to wake up. After all, we are what we think, and our passive attitude feeds apathy. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky states: life must be above the law, not the other way around; and we should not be called “ridiculous” for being different. With great passion, Carolina Rivas wants to adapt this philosophical narrative for the cinema.
Translated by Elena Philpott