With the theatre scene in the UK, especially London, we are most definitely spoilt for choice. The UK offers a wide range of theatrical genres and festivals for theatre lovers to choose from. This October, both Rich Mix and the Barbican will witness a selection of shows, courtesy of CASA Festival 2015, showing off the theatrical landscape of Southern America. Performances hail from Brazil to Mexico, offering a slice of Latin American culture. Ahead of this year’s festival, Theatrefullstop were lucky enough to speak with Artistic Director and Founder of CASA, Daniel Goldman about how shows are chosen for the festival, the inspiration for CASA’s creation and what events CASA has to offer.
Hi Daniel! CASA Festival is set to take over both Rich Mix and the Barbican from 2nd to 10th October. How are preparations for the festival going?
They’re going really well. All the artists are confirmed. All the flights are booked. The big marketing push is coming. It’s obviously getting a bit more frantic in the office, but that’s how we like it!
The line up for CASA has been announced. How do you decide what companies perform at the festival?
We programme the festival by seeing shows live at festivals across Latin America and Europe, and by going through hundreds of videos that companies send us, which [is] how we discover gems like Cafe Cachorro, an unbelievably exciting company from Brazil who have never performed outside of Brazil. That said, this year’s programme is focused on Mexico because this year is the year of Mexico in the UK and we thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to showcase a panorama of work from one country and go a little bit deeper. I’m really excited about the five Mexican shows we’ve got coming because they are all so different and show a side to Mexican theatre that you just couldn’t share if you were only bringing one show over.
CASA Festival was founded in 2007, what inspired the creation of the festival?
I lived in Argentina for a year in 2001/2 and discovered a theatre that was socially and politically engaged in a way that I wasn’t seeing here in the UK. I started the festival to bring that kind of work over. And because there was almost no Latin American theatre coming over. There was art and dance and music… but no theatre. And so, as a theatre maker, I thought, well, if no one else is building this bridge, then I will.
Has the festival evolved since its first showing? If so, how?
Hugely. We started by presenting Latin American plays in translation in a crypt. Now we’re presenting Latin America’s most important theatre companies at the Barbican and Rich Mix. We’ve been on an incredible journey, presented some truly fantastic shows, supported some brilliant UK-based artists and built up a community programme.
As well as theatre, CASA hosts a range of other events, from ‘Latin Jam’ to ‘The Day of Debate: Mexican Theatre and Politics’. Could you explain what these events entail? Are there any other events?
The Day of Debate is a chance to explore the relationship between Mexican theatre and Mexican politics. When I was out there looking for shows in November, the news of the Ayotzinapa tragedy of the 43 missing students had just broken out. Every single theatre show that I went to see was responding to this event. Whether by stopping the show midway through to count to 43 or through speeches at the curtain call. It was moving and potent and brave. Since a number of the shows that we’ve programmed are openly political as well in their themes and form, I thought it would be useful to open up a space for debate to explore how political theatre works in Mexico (and by extension in Latin America) and how it works here and how do theatre companies maintain a political stance when receiving or choosing not to receive state funding.
Latin Jam is a jam session celebrating LatAm song and open to all to come and play and sing and dance.
The Casa Concert and Exilio presents Latinos Unidos are two opportunities to boogie the night away.
We’ve got a pop-up Latin American restaurant at the festival as well, meet the artists sessions, workshops, a community day with activities for children. It’s a festival. As such we try to cram in as much as possible!
CASA Festival will be hosted at both the Rich Mix and the Barbican. How important are collaborations with other theatres?
Huge. Both Rich Mix and the Barbican have been wonderful hosts to the work we do, taking on the risk of taking us in before they know what show we’re going to present. Knowing what spaces you have available is so important when programming.
Nuestra CASA scratch night offers the opportunity for a theatre company to win funding to develop their work in progress. Do you believe that there are enough funding opportunities in the UK and South America?
In terms of the UK, we’re blessed to have a strong funding system. If you know how to play the game, you can get the funding. What isn’t easy is learning the rules. One of the ways we can try to help is by sharing those rules with UK-based Latin American artists so that they can get access to funding. As for Latin America, it depends on the country in question. Some countries offer support. Other’s don’t. And even then, it’s complicated.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers and festival programmers?
To performers… make the show you believe in and go for it, 100%, no holds barred. Making the first 90% of a show is easy. The next 10% is near impossible but that’s what you have to do to make a truly great show.
To programmers… try and watch everything live. And then talk to the artists. You have to go and talk to them. Don’t wait for them to talk to you. If they have to apporach you, then you’ve already put yourself on a pedestal. Which is rubbish. In this context, they are far more important than you. They’re the artists. You go to them. Otherwise, if you are to watch shows on video, don’t waste time watching work that isn’t good enough. you’ll know within the first 5 minutes. You’ll probably know within the first 30 seconds.
Interview by Lucy Basaba.
CASA Festival will take place at both the Rich Mix and the Barbican from Friday 2nd to Sunday 11th October. For more information on this year’s festival, visit here…