Friday, 17 April 2015

Jesus and the Zombies.

Our final visit to La Pintana this morning for the last couple of workshops. It was a joyous celebration of the week's work with all the students firing on full cylinders, confident, resourceful and easy with the work. The children, as they have all week, responded by throwing themselves into each exercise. It was a great couple of hours.

We were sad when time finally caught up with us, but delighted with the response from both the kids and the School. The kindly deputy head gave a short impromptu speech in which she explained what a positive impact our time in the School had had.

'You're famous in every house in the neighbourhood.' She said smiling.

Back in the centre. I decided to forego a lengthy lunch and instead used the hour to rush around the Museo Historico Nationale in the Plaza des Armes. I didn't have time to look at the pre-Colombian collection, but instead took a whistle stop tour from the 1810 revolution to the present day.

There's a fascinating three way struggle between the Spanish rulers, the Chilean liberators and somewhere in the background the indigenous Indians, who by the time of the revolution had long been subdued, but in recent years are beginning to reassert their position in Chilean society. At the heart of all this is Santiago - acting as a pivot and a magnet for all the major events and decisions that have forged Chile's story over the last 200 years.

In the last room a small cabinet is supposed to house Allende's broken spectacles, retrieved from La Moneda Palace - a powerful metaphor. Ironically, but perhaps fittingly, they weren't in the case, having been removed for conservation purposes.

Our final rehearsals at the Sename and I'm back in Galvarino. Faith, Rachel and Chloe seemed to have cracked their group and the work in their room is purposeful and understood. The kids are excited about the prospect of performing tomorrow and keen to get things right. There is less impatient slumping into the sofa when things aren't perfect first time round, less trips to the bathroom, less shouting out of the window to friends in other classrooms. Those children who weren't so keen on performing were also busy, designing posters for tomorrow's show.

The other room, however, seems to have lost a little focus. Aliyah and Hannah look exhausted and the kids are struggling to agree on what exactly should go into the show and what not.

The saving grace in the middle of this was eight year old Jonathan who told us he had a hundred stories he wanted to tell. We persuaded him to focus on one and the rest of the room agreed to help tell it.

So Jonathan began.

'My story,' he announced 'is called Jesus and the Zombies!'

'What happens in your story?' asks Aliyah.

'When Jesus was little he was a good boy and ate up all his dinner. Then one day he wasn't and so God got mad and sent the zombies to get him. Jesus survived, but everybody was angry with him for bringing the zombies and so they decided to crucify him. His mother, who was called Mary was very sad. She knelt at his feet and cried a lot!'

'I've got an idea.' said another lad, who'd only really joined today.

'What is it?' asked Carolina.

'I think we should do a rap at this point to cheer Mary up.'

'A rap?'

'Yes. I've got a good one.'

'Ok. Let's try.'

To be fair the rap was very good and so we kept it in.

'Then,' Jonathan continued, perhaps worried that we'd forgot the main part of the story 'God sent the zombies to kill Mary and the rapper and all the gangstas! But Jesus was too high in the air, up on the cross for them to get him, so they were sad. It didn't really matter anyway  because Jesus died as well.'

Story established we moved on to casting and directing. I was chosen to play Jesus, Carolina, Mary and everybody else zombies.

Jonathan proved to be a very exacting director and to begin with he wasn't happy with the angle of my head or the way my feet were placed when I was put on the cross. He also took a long while to sort out Mary's kneeling and crying position, during which time my arms began to get tired. I shook them out. and was immediately reprimanded for my lack of professional discipline with a withering glare and the unarguable reminder that :-


We moved onto the rap and Carolina was instructed to stop crying and throw some gangsta shapes.

'What's the rap about?' I asked

'It's about the state of education in Chile,' said Carolina 'it's quite good actually. Very political.'

As my arms were really aching now I decided to try my luck with the director again and asked whether Jesus might join in the dance, if only to get rid of the pins and needles.

'Listen!' said Jonathan firmly 'At this point in the story your wrists are nailed to the cross. So you can't just start dancing. The audience would never believe it!'

We ran it through a couple of times and then Jonathan went

through all the exits and entrances with us, just to get our timing right.

'Because you can't speak Spanish,' he said to me 'I'm going to nod like this when I want you to get up onto the chair. And then I'll cough like this when I want you to put your arms out for the crucifixion.'

Time ran out but Jonathan called the room together and wished us a good night's rest,

'Tomorrow,' he told us 'will be a big day.'

This evening Jose and Antonia took us to the Centro Cultural Matucana 100 by Quinta Normal Park to see a new play Leftraru, directed by friends of theirs. The centre itself feels like The Pleasance in Edinburgh, several venues, reclaimed from old storage sheds which used to be used to repair rail cars, set around a vibrant courtyard.

The show was sold out, but Antonia pulled some strings and with the health and safety officer looking the other way, we crammed into the stairwells to watch.

Although in Spanish the acting was crisp and with a little bit of context from our hosts we were able to really enjoy the story which focuses on a Mapuche community who are asked to choose the design for a statue of one of their warrior ancestors Lautaro. In order to help them make a decision they perform excerpts from an earlier play, about the warrior, written by Isidora Aguirre, a renowned Chilean playwright and social reformer, in the 1960s.  This leads to a debate about whether an authentic ancestral voice can be heard if all the stories have already been colonised by post-colonial writers. The whole story is set in Temuco, some 400 miles south of Santiago and the heart of the ancestral Mapuche lands.

Antonia also explains that some of the work is verbatim and is collected on the morning of the show, rehearsed in the afternoon and sectioned into the performance each night. Thus the work has three levels - a sampled 1960s piece, contemporary updates brought in daily and the play itself. A fascinating structure.

Back in Belle Artes Friday night is kicking off. A masked street band wanders down the road and the weekend begins to unfold. We haven't eaten yet and so gratefully fall into a smoky Thai cafe for some noodles, fired up in front of our eyes by a showman of a chef. The problem with this city is you never want to sleep! But I have the words of my director buzzing in my head.

'Tomorrow is a big day.'


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