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December 17, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014

Disproof of innocence stirs onstage debate

A scene from El Principio de Arquímedes, staged in Argentina by Corina Fiorillo.
By Carolina Nogueira
For the Herald

Spanish play involves audience in controversial topic about alleged child abuse

Upon entering the theatre hall before the play starts, the audience has to choose which side of the stage they want to sit on. This is because its design allows for an intriguing decision related to the play’s topic: two different sides of the same situation. The stage, stretching between two terraces, becomes a runway of sorts, where the characters show themselves, exposing their situation and allowing the audience to assess them.

El Principio de Arquímedes — written by award-winning Spanish author Josep Maria Miró — expounds on a suspicious case of child abuse. Rubén — played by Juan Minujín — is the swimming teacher accused of kissing a little boy who is afraid of getting into the water without a donut float. David, the boy’s father, barges into the locker room with the clear intent of addressing the situation without further ado. Ana, the owner of the swimming pool, argues with David, defending the teacher and trying to calm down the angry parent. The situation spins out of control throughout this play, where the mistrust permeates everything and the signs of guilt seem to become increasingly manifest.

Two opposite terraces surround the stage. This layout fans the flames of open confrontation while giving free reign to the audience’s judgement. The light that constantly illuminates the viewers emphasizes their inclusion and gives them a full presence on stage, catapulting their passive condition into a more active observation. During the discussions, the lengthened stage resembles a tennis court, with the audiences hurriedly shifting their gaze between the two opposing sides.

The double concept is also present in the text, where the situations are depicted in a flashback and flash-forward logic and connected by the repetition of some dialogues. This scenario is well accomplished by replicating the same situation on the opposite side of the stage. Copying the European stage design, the mise-en-scene works with a custom-built layout that switches sides: sometimes the lockers are on the right and, after a blackout moment, they emerge on the left.

The sound effects also create and emphasize the atmosphere. Before the play starts, the room is flooded with water sounds. During the performance — and including one element at the time — a child’s laugh, children talking and also a whistle are added to the original water sounds.

Directed by Corina Fiorillo, this original and contemporary play proposes a debate about mistrust and speculations. Juan Minujín, as the accused teacher, goes through multiple emotional shifts in a challenging role, which he performs in a well-accomplished manner. Martín Slipak — as his work colleague — goes with the action and balances the tension the situation generates. Beatriz Spelzini — as the owner of the pool — manages a fully-developed performance, while Nelson Rueda — as the child’s father — adds a sense of gravity and confrontation to the story.

With outstanding performances, this Spanish play manages, in a dynamic way, to set out a present-day debate about the need to know the people around us.

Where and when

Teatro San Martín, Corrientes 1530. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm and Sundays at 8pm. Tickets from 45 pesos.

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