Caro Meets Festivals Interview Theatre Interview

Daniel Goldman: CASA Latin American Theatre Festival

By | Published on Wednesday 20 September 2017

You might recall that last week we published an interview with Trevor White, one of the two stars of ‘Thebes Land’, which, following a hugely successful 2016 run, is currently showing as part of this year’s CASA Latin American Theatre Festival.
Now, ‘Thebes Land’ is brilliant, but there are of course a great many more CASA events to not-miss. To find out more about those, and to get some in depth info about the festival, I spoke to its founder, Daniel Goldman.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the history of the festival – what inspired it and what are its aims?
DG: I founded CASA in 2007 to bring Latin American theatre and culture to the UK. I lived in Argentina in 2001-2002 and discovered a theatre that was more politically and socially engaged than most of the theatre I’d seen in the UK. When I came back to London, I realised that while there was a pretty healthy Latin American art, cinema and music scene here in London, there was close to zero theatre coming over. I wanted to change that and with a brilliant group of volunteers, we started CASA.

Since 2007, the festival has grown and grown, and our aims have become more ambitious. While our focus remains on bringing brilliant Latin American theatre companies to the UK, we’re also committed to developing UK-based Latin American performance artists, creating opportunities for the UK’s Latin American community to access the arts and producing English language versions of great Latin American plays.

CM: How do you find, or decide, the events that form the festival?
DG: We programme the international shows in a number of ways – by going to festivals in Latin America and inviting the best shows, by watching videos that theatre companies from across the continent send us and also, occasionally, by writing to the big names and asking them nicely if they fancy coming over. In terms of programming the UK works, some of the shows have been selected through an open call, some of the shows are commissions or co-partnered events, and some are shows and artists we’ve simply invited. Finally, lots of our complementary activities have been designed and organised by the team. This year we’re trialling an artist liaison scheme where emerging artists and producers are attached to one of our international companies and they are given a budget to produce events around the shows they are attached to.

CM: What genres are included in the festival? Can it be anything?
DG: We’re open to all genres of performance and yes, it can be anything… so long as it’s very good! We don’t programme with a theme in my mind but themes and patterns always emerge and that’s the same with form. We’ve had past editions that have been very strong on, say, puppetry or documentary theatre or clown. Or have centred strongly on a particular theme such as exile, or journeys, or indigenous identities. This year, I would say that the genre this year is very physical text-based theatre and the main theme of the international programme is gender violence. That’s not to say that audiences won’t laugh or be moved by beauty – they absolutely will – but the humour this year is dark.

CM: What have been your highlights over the last ten years?
DG: Oh wow, what a question! Shows I’ve loved have been…

– ‘Diego y Ulises’ by Diego y Ulises, a beautiful tender dance piece from Argentina
– ‘Neverwhere Beckett’ by Cafe Cachorro, a mad experimental physical performance from Brazil,
– ‘Juana in a Million’ by Vicky Araico Casas, the first UK show we supported, which was incredibly moving
– ‘Parlamento’ by Tryo Teatro Banda, an incredibly fun one man history of the Mapuche and Spanish parliaments.

… and ‘Thebes Land’, this year, has been a pretty amazing trip too!

CM: Speaking of which, how did ‘Thebes Land’ come to be returning to kick off this year’s festival?
DG: We decided that we couldn’t do a festival every year so we took a year off last year, but we didn’t want to have a year without doing anything. Through a set of fortuitous circumstances, we were offered the opportunity to put on a show at Arcola Theatre. I’d seen the original production of ‘Thebes Land’ at a festival in Colombia and I’d come out from seeing it physically shaking with joy. I pitched it to Mehmet Ergen, the Artistic Director of the Arcola, who read it, loved it, and so we staged it in 2016 with a brilliant cast – Trevor White and Alex Austin. It did really well, we all had a lovely time, and the show got great reviews and won the Offie for Best Production, and so we all thought… let’s do it again and let’s do it as part of CASA 2017, our ten year anniversary festival.

CM: What else can we expect from this year’s event?
DG: Two incredible takes on ‘Othello’ and ‘Macbeth’ from Chile and Mexico, a deeply moving and visceral re-imagining of Genet’s ‘The Maids’ and a serial killer deadpan comedy from Brazil… plus six brand new shows by the UK’s most exciting Latin American artists and theatre makers. We’ve also got a mini-festival of play readings, talks, workshops and much more. There’s a lot on… and that feels right. It’s a big celebration after all. It’s all on our website – please check it out!

CM: Is there anything you are especially looking forward to?
DG: Well, I’ve seen all the international shows and they are all genuinely amazing. I’d say come and see ‘Otelo’ and then never leave… And then there’s also the UK work, and I’m thrilled about the ideas that the artists have proposed and seeing how they develop and how audiences receive them.

CM: What plans do you have for the future?
DG: Well, we want to tour Thebes Land around the UK. We’re looking at putting on a mini-Colombia theatre festival. And supporting more artists. And of course, we’re working out what the next ‘Thebes Land’ will be… that’s to say, which will be the next Latin American show we do a English language production of. So the future looks busy… and very exciting.

The CASA Festival takes place at Southwark Playhouse and Arcola Theatre until 28 Oct. See the festival website here for more information.