14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 13 November 2022 — Amongst the hundreds of people who gathered in front of the entrance to the Bertolt Brecht Centre on Saturday evening, few knew the reason why the comedian Rigoberto Ferrera was celebrating 30 years on the stage.
1992 was a long time ago for the majority of young people struggling to get into the venue — those who follow him on Instagram — and those who comb their grey hair or who already have no hair left to comb who follow him on Facebook, they probably never passed by that impromptu venue in a tanker truck, on 25th street in Vedado, when ’Riguito’, as his friends call him, played the role of Pepe Grillo in a free adaptation of Pinocchio.
In every one of the many performances of that show, a group of local children learnt the speeches, copied his gestures, and from there was born what became La Colmenita [The Little Beehive] — that ambitious project which took Carlos Alberto Cremata, El Tin, beyond even his best achievements.
Sitting at the keyboard of his piano, or standing on the stage, Rigoberto still holds the attention of that brotherhood of admirers — for whom he stops speaking to allow them to chant the ends of his lines. He doesn’t need the words themselves. He relies on his face. His eyes and his mouth — which spell out everything, but in silence — say it all.
But he also relies on the infinite vocabulary of his body, flexible and elastic, which allows him to demonstrate, say, the difference between how the driver of a big old almendrón-style taxi moves his body, and the contortions of a different driver squeezing behind the wheel of a very small polaquito car. This had to be seen! As Rigoberto stretches out his hand trying to retrieve what remained of his left leg outside of the car.
At one table reserved for guests sat those officials from the ’Centre for the Promotion of Humour’ who had stayed in Cuba, and whom Rigoberto tore to bits without mercy with his best jokes. But there wasn’t any resentment, only revenge, for which the officials of the organisation (who, despite being officials hadn’t given up being comedians) presented him with the gift of a painting, titled ’the mono liso’ [the smooth monkey] in which the friendly bald comic is depicted in front of the Mona Lisa’s background.
It’s fortunate for Cuban humour that Rigoberto Ferrera remains on the Island, and even more fortunate that this Pepe Grillo continues to stroke any keyboards that there are left to stroke, although there’s no lack of cruel puppet masters in the style of the bearded Stromboli who continue uttering that threat from 30 years ago: “Here, you do what I say and say what I think, and any puppet that gets angry with me I’ll throw them on the candle flame”.
Translated by Ricardo Recluso
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