“New plays from Chile” at the Royal Court: An interview with Elyse Dodgson

As we mentioned in our last post number of events are taking place to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the right wing coup d’etat that overthrew Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government including a commemorative gathering in front of the Chilean Embassy in London on Wednesday 11th.
The Royal Court Theatre stages a whole week of readings by Chilean playwright.
Melinda Szucs spoke to their International Director, Elyse Dodgson about her own inspiration behind the programme. Elyse Dodgson has been a member of the Royal Court artistic team since 1985 – first, as Director of the Young People’s Theatre and, since 1995, as an Associate Director and Head of the International Department. Elyse has co-ordinated play development in many parts of the world including Cuba, Nigeria, Uganda, Mexico, Palestine, Russia, Syria, India and Brazil and was the recipient of the 2004 Young Vic Award and, in 2010, received an MBE for her contribution to ‘international theatre and young writers overseas’.
And below John Cuevas from the group Amigo Artista gives us some of his personal thoughts on the coup and how it impacted on his music, and about Victor Jara (legendary Chilean singer, poet and political activist who was murdered a few days after):
Elyse Dodgson, from The Royal Court
How did you come up with ‘Chile week’? What gave you the idea?
The Royal Court Theatre runs long term play development projects all over the world and I first visited Chile in January 2011 to explore the possibility of working there. We had already worked with two important Chilean writers, Guillermo Calderon and Alejandro Moreno, who attended previous residencies of ours in London. Playwrights Leo Butler, Nick Payne and I travelled to Chile three times from April 2012 -13 to work with an inspiring group of 12 emerging writers in Santiago. This work often culminated in readings in London and this time we realised that the time we planned coincided with the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Do you have any personal connections/memories to what happened 40 years ago?
Yes, it was a very important time for people of my generation who were politically active at the time. This was before I started to work at the Royal Court but they already did some benefit evenings in favour of Chilean solidarity and they also helped people in detention to get exit visas.
The week has a huge variety of performances and acts. How did you come up with such a great line up?
It was difficult to make a decision about the plays we would read and the writers we would invite as all of the writers are so gifted, and we could have chosen many more plays. In the end we looked for a range of plays that would interest our audiences. It was important to mark the day itself and we were delighted to learn about Victor Figueroa Clark’s biography just released about Salvador Allende. It is wonderful that Victor can speak and we could never have an event without music. Amigo Artista came highly recommended by different sources.
On Friday 13 September, there will be a celebration of Chilean culture in the Royal 
Court Bar & Kitchen with live music from Chilean act Amigo Artista followed Movimientos DJs.
John Cuevas, from Amigo Artista:
What are your memories from the period of the ‘long dark night’? 
I have happy memories from my childhood but after 11/09/73 all changed under the military rule . Life became scary with bullying from the government. 
Have these past experiences had any impact on your music? 
Yes, when you look around and see all this chaotic environment, the music and songs are a form of support for a new, friendly and good world, without any confrontation and war.
Before coming to London, you were also performing in Wales at the Victor Jara Festival (30th Aug). Could you tell us about this? 
The festival Victor Jara El sueno existe in Wales was amazing, the audience was fantastic and they seemed very happy dancing and singing to our tunes. I have played in the festival several times, sometimes I played alone or have been accompanied by different talented musicians. 
What impacts (if any) Victor Jara had on you?
I listened to Victor Jara when I was very young, and he is an inspiration in my everyday routine. As a Chilean singer and musician I think that his music and tunes are really beautiful creations. They encourage me to have hope for living in a peaceful and fair environment.
How would you describe your music? 
The music that we do is always coming from the La Cordillera de los Andes and the mixing of different melodies and instruments. The musicians invite you to travel through the Atlantic, giving you the taste and sounds of this part of the planet.

 By: Melinda Szucs

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