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Luis d'Ors: "I am not a professional director, but a vocational one"

The stage director has just premiered La paura, a version of the Neapolitan author Eduardo De Filippo. And he does so with an original format and a first-rate cast
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR

GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR  -   Luis d´Ors

"When I think of my vocation I do not fear life". The phrase is from the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, a key author in the career of Luis d'Ors, who after eight years away from the stage returns to the Fernán Gómez. A pause, as he calls this period, in which he discovered that along with his theatrical vocation another was born: that of being a father. And it was clear to him what he had to do. A vocation that takes away fears to face what is to come and to know how to wait while trying to make the most of those gifts that life gives. And the moment came; first, as a "loving impulse, and later, the fruit of long reflection". 

Luis d´Ors
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors

D'Ors returns through the big door, and does so with a risky and interesting bet produced by Vodevil: the reading in action or semi-staged of La paura, a version of the play La paura número uno by Eduardo De Filippo.  The nerves, the tensions, the lack of time, the difficulties... were left behind the stage at the moment when a non-existent curtain opened and the actors appeared: the Viyuela family, for the first time acting together: Pepe and Elena González and their children Samuel and Camila, plus Pepa Pedroche and Markos Marín. "A dream", says the director, aware of the marvellous work done by this group of "funambulistas". 

Luis d´Ors
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors

And it became a reality to create again, to dream and fly, even if you have your feet on the ground, with tenacity and enthusiasm, with desire and effort, with its grey afternoons too. And here again is this English-trained director, who defends imagination as part of life, a life that must be looked at from a distance. An existence, his own, that he does not understand without theatre, without love, without the light of truth; and a theatre, everyone's theatre, which can be understood as a "healing catharsis". 

GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors

You have been eight years away from the stage professionally due to a personal choice. What made you consider coming back?

To be honest, it wasn't a choice. I took the long break from the profession (because I have never left the theatre, theatre teaching, theatre with friends..., I have never left it) because of a family priority. I felt that, in my case, they were not compatible. This is an absorbing profession. It's not easy for anyone to combine the demands of each thing. For me, moreover, by temperament, I don't know how to do it halfway. I am not a professional director but a vocational one. And life has given me another vocation: that of a father. I am proud and happy to have made that pause, and also to take it up again now. To go back to work with the people of my profession and to present my work to the general public is a necessity for me; also for my family, who support me, out of love, which is what it all boils down to.

Luis d´Ors
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - La paura

You return with La paura, a version of the play La paura número uno by Eduardo de Filippo, why this play and this author, was it by chance or meditated?

I always like to remember Herman Hesse when he says that, in reality, our important decisions are more the result of an unconscious impulse or an infatuation than of reasoning. We then look for the philosophy that best suits us to justify the step we take. I have loved Eduardo's theatre since I was very young when I read El arte de la comedia, a play I helped to stage for the 15th anniversary of La Abadía. I later became acquainted with many other geniuses of his, in particular La grande Magia.  I could tell you that my travels in Italy, the adventures in Rome with my friend Tomás, (a theatre buddy), that unforgettable trip to Sicily, another to Capri, Naples and the Amalfi coast always had the flavour of this author's theatre. Eduardo, Italy, the 50s, Italian cinema... were for us almost one and the same thing.

La paura número uno fell into my hands in the middle of confinement. I found in the text a lot of images and concomitances with the moment we were living: the fear of the end of the world, the states of alert and exception, the confinements, the provisioning of thousands of rolls of toilet paper, the beliefs of one or the other.

GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors

By chance I heard that Pepe Viyuela's mother had died, and I called him. We remembered how his mother liked a first play we did when we left the School of Dramatic Art: Chiquilladas, and we decided that we had to work together again.  My devotion to Pepe as a person and as the greatest of our comedians, and to his family, did the rest. In the cast of La Paura there were roles for the four of us, the whole clan, how wonderful! Everything fit, they said yes almost immediately. The play is produced by Vodevil SL, in collaboration with Actores Chekhov and Rotor Media.

The choice of this proposal for my return to the theatre was the result of a first impulse of love and, later, the fruit of a long reflection. And yes, it was enthusiastic!

© CHEMA CASTELLÓ
PHOTO/CHEMA CASTELLÓLa paura

You speak of the Viyuela family, but what a cast. You returns through the big door...

To see the Viyuela family, for the first time, embarking on this professional adventure, is exciting. It was touching to see how they arrived together; how they stayed to load the junk, how they went out of their way to compile the company's paperwork, such demanding requirements? In short, all this is enough for another book. There is a wonderful film, not very well known, by James Ivory, called Shakespeare and company, about a family of English actors who perform Shakespeare in colonial India. These days, Tomás reminded me of that film, watching the Viyuelas. As if that were not enough, I have had the good fortune to work with the other two members of the cast: the great Pepa Pedroche, one of our ladies of the stage (I can't imagine a better Luisa) and Markos Marín, another extraordinary actor who, as well as being close to the Viyuelas, has had the same training as all of us at the Escuela de Mar Navarro and at La Abadía. In short, what more could one ask for! A dream.

© CHEMA CASTELLÓ
PHOTO/CHEMA CASTELLÓLa paura

You say that on reading the play he found a certain similarity, despite the distance and the circumstances, between what De Filippo wrote and what we were living. Does history repeat itself?

People are more similar than we think. Everywhere, at all times, the essence of what is human is the same. We can read a 19th century Russian novel or watch an Afghan film or a cave painting and recognise ourselves, be moved. The same principle applies to theatre: an actor can embody different characters. In reality, so-called diverse identities are only circumstantial. The great theatre, that of the dramatic poets, Sophocles, Shakespeare, De Filippo..., is great because it deals with the human, the unchangeable. So, to answer your question, yes, history repeats itself, of course, although not in the same way. I would ask the pessimists if they would exchange the current era for any other era of the past. No way! As hard as it may seem, the present is, in comparison, more bearable than the life that befell our parents, let alone our grandparents? There are many moments in La paura that resonate today; the greater perspective we have now, thank God, makes us look at it differently. There are many examples: the fake news trick with which Uncle Arturo convinces Mateo to believe that the disaster has already arrived and to calm down...; the passion for accumulating thousands of unnecessary articles in times of uncertainty...; the obsession with security, the desire to escape from danger, even if it entails greater suffering, such as deprivation of freedom...

© CHEMA CASTELLÓ
PHOTO/CHEMA CASTELLÓLa paura

The bewilderment, uncertainty and certainty of the pandemic that brought millions of deaths was experienced in many ways, where is the line between the real and the imaginary?

There is a phrase in La paura that sums up what the play is about, when Mateo states: "We are what we believe". In theatre we talk about "believing in order to create". It means that we are creators of our reality, responsible for how we look at that reality: that's how we look at life, that's how we live it. There is "you" truth, there is "my" truth, and there is, of course, "The" truth. But only life itself (God for believers) can illuminate this truth. One could say that the theme of all Edwardian theatre is this. It never defines what is truth, and what is imagined. After all, imagination is part of life, and it has clear consequences for reality, don't you think?

In La paura you deal with a dramatic theme: fear and its consequences in everyday life, but you fill it with dyes that seek to provoke a smile. What is humour for you?

We need to put some distance to look at life. That's what art is, looking at life. As soon as you distance yourself, you see more clearly. The distance from pain is what allows you to laugh in comedy. I experienced the most extreme example in a play about death, called A minute too late. The audience was on the floor laughing.  Literally. De Fillipo, who lived through the whole of the 20th century, a convulsive century, is an expert in this tragicomic tone. He always treats the cruelest and hardest things with that theatrical distance and manages to arouse laughter and a tender, compassionate smile. He is a genius. In the play La paura there is a character who is even more frightening than Mateo, Signora Luisa. In the hands of another playwright, she would have become odious. Eduardo is able to make us assume her point of view, to understand her, despite her terrible mistakes...

© CHEMA CASTELLÓ
GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Luis d´Ors

In this sense, do you believe that theatre is catharsis, that smiling can heal?

The simple fact of finding ourselves in the same place and time with others to witness together that look at life, that is already a healing catharsis. Theatre, art in general, is essential for life. That is why it has been part of our culture since the beginning of time; that is why it will always be with us.

You are taking a risky gamble with an unusual format in Spain for your staging. Does this risk give you a certain "paura"? In what sense does it involve the spectator more?

Every great actor is a tightrope walker: all six of them are. They climbed on the tightrope and not only did they not fall off, but they began to caper. People don't have to know that reading and acting is very difficult, that they've only had five days... In every rehearsal, I was left open-mouthed by what they were doing, fulfilling everything established, with a humility and confidence typical of the great ones, like them.  People love to see the guts of the theatre, how you can immerse yourself in a fiction and at the same time see how the artefact is constructed.

Before I wish you "a lot of shit" (as you "comedians" say), tell me why I should go and see it?

In the days of the Filippo Company, as Fellini used to say, you went to the theatre to spend an unforgettable evening. It was a time when people set aside the whole afternoon to go to the banquette: to see the De Filippo. There were many actors, two intermissions, they ate, the spectators talked about their lives and the play... Today we are full of plans, with many open fronts, but we have just enough time. Confinement taught us to stop, to pause and breathe. As you get older, you realise the need to stop and take time to be in joyful solitude, to meditate and do free things, and art is in this territory. To answer your question, if you want to have a great time, to be moved, to laugh, to reflect, to share some time with your friends, then come and see it, because it will be a gift for your soul.