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Student Guide: Hamlet speaks Catalan

Don’t sweat the language – there’s no better way to immerse yourself in local culture than to take in a play in Catalan

Helena Tornero (TNC)

They’re in their thirties and have projects on the go in theatre capitals like New York, London and Milan. They’ve spent a lifetime in the theatre, watching the best productions, and absorbing lessons from the likes of Neil LaBute, Simon Stephens and David Harrower. They even tasted success in their twenties with small plays staged in off-Barcelona venues. And now, at a time when directors are no longer in the spotlight, playwrights like Pere Riera, Pau Miró, Jordi Galceran, Marta Buchaca and Jordi Casanovas are the ones to watch.

Guillem Clua, whose plays 'Skin in Flames' and 'The Taste of Ashes' premiered in the US, says, ‘We’re living our finest moment as playwrights with respect to international opportunities, and we’ve got to take advantage of that. There are several exciting voices outside Barcelona, such as Esteve Soler, and this is happening because we don’t sit around contemplating our navels or talking about marital problems or issues out of our reach. We talk about what happens on the street, what’s in the papers. Today our audience is global,’ he says. This season Clua’s productions in Barcelona are 'La terra promesa' ('The Promised Land') and the musical '73 raons per deixar-te' ('73 Reasons to Leave You').

All these playwrights come from the biggest Barcelona drama factory, the Sala Beckett, a 60-seat theatre in Gràcia that 10 years ago devoted a full season to the theme of Barcelona and, two years later, to Catalan drama. With that first season on Barcelona, new authors erupted onto the scene. Pau Miró premiered 'Plou a Barcelona' ('It’s Raining in Barcelona'), which won the critics circle best new play award and travelled to Italy, to be staged by the Teatro Uniti company. And his 'Els jugadors' ('The Players') won the Ubú prize (the Italian Oliviers) for best foreign play.

Two years ago, the Catalan National Theatre (TNC) gave a few playwrights the chance to stage their new work in one of the biggest theatres in town – with 900 seats, the TNC is normally reserved for big productions by Shakespare or Lorca. It was a sign of a healthy future: local playwrights can draw an audience. In Barcelona, not only does Hamlet speak Catalan, but the most popular plays are written in Catalan too.

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