CASA: Festival Focus

Artistic Director Daniel Goldman sheds some light on London’s festival of Latin American Theatre, CASA.

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CASA Latin American Theatre Festival celebrates its 10th birthday this September. Since launching on a much smaller scale in 2007, CASA has brought the work of more than 100 Latin American artists to UK audiences and supported more than 200 Latin American artists working in the UK.

The 2017 festival is bigger than ever. It runs from 3 September to 28 October at two of London’s most influential venues, Arcola Theatre and Southwark Playhouse.

Artistic Director Daniel Goldman tells us more:

CASA Latin American Theatre Festival 2017
CASA Latin American Theatre Festival 2017

What is CASA?

CASA is a Latin American Theatre Festival. It’s dedicated to bringing the very best Latin American theatre to the UK and supporting incredible Latin American artists who live here. We’re celebrating our 10th birthday this year with an amazing eight-week festival of stunning international work and exciting new UK work at Arcola Theatre and Southwark Playhouse.

CASA is also a Spanish word for house or home. That’s what we are – a home for Latin American theatre and culture here in London and the UK.

Why is it important to have a festival like CASA celebrating Latin American theatre?

I believe that creating opportunities for UK audiences and artists alike to encounter Latin American theatre is invaluable. We have so much to learn from each other, especially right now, when it feels like the UK is closing itself off to the world. It feels especially important to me that we open our borders, arms and minds. One of the ways we can do that is by creating a bridge through art and culture.

How has the festival changed since it first launched?

We started 10 years ago with a repertory season of three Latin American plays. A group of London-based actors performed them in a crypt in Holborn. When we became an international festival, we changed the format to what eventually became a 10-day festival at Rich Mix and The Barbican with multiple shows each night. Now, in our tenth year, we’re changing again. We’re delivering a hugely ambitious eight-week festival which brings together the return of our Offie Award-winning Thebes Land to Arcola Theatre and a 5-week season of show at Southwark Playhouse.

Are there any themes that draw this year’s shows together?

We don’t programme with a theme in mind, but invariably there are things that connect each year’s shows. This year it feels like there are three main themes in our international programme.

The first is an exploration of acts of violence. Thebes Land investigates the act of patricide and Otelo looks at the phenomena of femicide in Latin America. Osmo takes us into the mind of a serial killer, while Mendoza is a bloody reminder of the cycle of rural violence that is prevalent in Mexico today.

The second theme is counter-cultural appropriation – three of our international shows are Latin American adaptations of classic European plays. Otelo is a fascinating two-handed puppetry take on Othello, while Mendoza is a beautiful adaptation of Macbeth set in 19th century Mexico. The Only Thing A Great Actress Needs… is inspired by Genet’s The Maids.

Thirdly, I think that most of our international shows shed a really interesting light of the human body. Osmo features male nudity, The Only Thing A Great Actress Needs… features female nudity, and Otelo and Mendoza are very physical takes on Shakespeare with blood and guts and puppets at play.

Our UK work focuses very clearly on themes of home, exile, and identity. All our UK shows are created by Latin American artists who have been living here for years. The work they make reflects their need to explore their own identities, their longing and separation from home. It’s very apparent that almost all of our UK-based artists feel the need to explore the idea of home and what they left behind in order to move forwards here. I think that audiences are going to encounter some incredibly moving new work this year.

Mendoza, playing at Southwark Playhouse as part of CASA 2017
Mendoza, playing at Southwark Playhouse as part of CASA 2017

What do you look for when programming the festival?

Excellence. Our main criteria is that the shows we present be brilliant. After that, it becomes a question of who fits with who, the range of work we present, who’s established vs who’s emerging, and who can actually come. There are at least 10 other shows we’d love to have programmed this year but it just wasn’t possible. There’s always next year though!

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s never seen a CASA show before?

That’s a question I get all the time and it’s almost impossible to answer because everyone likes different things. Here goes:

If you like having your head messed with and you want to see two brilliant actors do their thing, see Thebes Land.

If you like puppetry, special effects and physical theatre, see Otelo.

If you want to laugh (and see a beautiful naked man in a see through bath), see Osmo.

If you like seeing new talent breaking through, come to our UK Week.

If you want theatre that makes you think and feel, see The Only Thing A Great Actress Needs…

If you like your theatre to be visceral and fun, and you want to see a live chicken steal the show, see Mendoza.

And if you want to taste delicious Peruvian food while listening to a lovely story, see Here We Cook With Love.

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s a CASA regular?

I think that if our regulars come to Otelo, they’ll love it so much they’ll come see everything that follows.

What is your own CASA highlight?

Oh, that changes literally every week. This week, for some reason, I’m super excited about Osmo. Last week it was The Only Thing A Great Actress Needs… Every time I spend any amount of time thinking about one of our shows, I get excited all over again… It’s ridiculous but true.

CASA Latin American Festival 2017 runs from 3 September to 28 October at Arcola Theatre and Southwark Playhouse. Find out more at the festival’s website.