14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz, Camagüey | 14 August 2018 — The complicity that is established among the spectators creates the perfect climate for Epic Book, a staging every Sunday of July and August that makes Camaguey residents shake with laughter. In a key of sarcasm, the piece questions the excessive militarization of the Island and the early ideological indoctrination of children.
In the hands of the director David Pimentel Martín, the company Noventísimo Performance Project does not skimp on ironies in the Café Teatro of the Camagüey headquarters of the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS). From the minute the spectators arrive at the theater they encounter a mixture of chaotic insolence and self-confidence that ridicules the so-called values of Cuban socialist society.
So much irreverence, combined with acomplished and multifaceted acting, have turned Epic Book into a phenomenon in the midst of the province’s August heat, where high temperatures are often met with few high quality cultural options. The dialog runs and, before the sharpness of the work, some fall out laughing and others hide their guilt.
“The same burning, the same palm, the same plague, the cow is mounted on the truck, not for pleasure, out of necessity,” are the phrases that greet the spectators from the poster announcing the performances. In that surrealist image, is condensed a lot of the brazen criticism that begins as soon as the first speeches are declaimed.
Pimentel clarifies to the spectators that the Noventísimo Performance Project has a “pinkish fuchsia color” and that the year in which he was inactive was not because his members were traveling abroad, but because they were “birthing.” The laughter bursts out and there is always some clueless visitor who turns red up to his ears, his face clearly showing that he’s in the wrong place.
Epic Book has all the keys to a show of impersonations in the style of those who perform at the Las Vegas cabaret, in Infanta street in Havana, or in El Mejunje in Santa Clara. However, the playful show is punctuated with scathing dialogues that include everything from José Martí’s verses, through the rhymes of Bonifacio Byrne to the songs of Luis Casas Romero.
As an element that gives the piece a very current context, the burning theme of homosexual marriage is touched, which ignites the passions in the debate on the constitutional reform. The active opposition of the conservative religious sectors is shown in opposition to the demands of the LGBTI community.
Thus, Pimentel weaves speeches that whistle like darts towards the symbolic pillars of the system. One of them, in the worst Soviet style very common in the 70s and 80s of the last century, is the one that promoted the moral stimuli of the ‘vanguard’ workers, among which there were abundant diplomas that filled the walls of the grandparents and parents of those who today look with indifference or ridicule on so much paraphernalia.
In a cathartic act, the spectators gathered on the terrace of the AHS must shatter the vanguard diploma given to them a little earlier. Rip, rip, rip, they tear the paper, which for many of them represents a past full of false promises of the future. Rip, rip, rip and the pieces fall on the hard ground of a reality quite different from the one they were led to believe was just around the corner.
It is not clear to whom Epic Book expresses that marked apathy of the Cuban millennials, the emphasis comes in the voice of an actress who declaims: “Ideology, I do not have any.” The phrase, said with the emphasis of a Little Pioneer reciting her fidelity to Che at the morning assembly at an elementary school, summarizes the protective mechanism in which these grown children have taken refuge among the so-called anti-imperialist grandstands and the television Roundtables.
The most accomplished moment of the work is precisely the poetic replay of words from the classic poem Abdala by José Martí. A few verses that every Cuban child has had to recite at some other time, but in the context of Pimentel’s piece it presents a sharp questioning of certain concepts such as patriotism and duty.
When the lights go out and the voices stop echoing, people return home, still processing what they have just seen on the stage. In spite of the laughter and epic tone of Epic Book, a feeling of uneasiness settles on the spectators, as if the actors had completely exploded any remaining utopian bubble they had left.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.