Heidelberg Play Market 2015
A political Mexico as guest

Award ceremony of Heidelberg Play Market 2015
Award ceremony of Heidelberg Play Market 2015: Dieter Sommer (Chairman of the Friends of Heidelberg Theater and Orchester), Holger Schultze (Director of Heidelberg Theater and Orchestrer), Ángel Hernández (Winner of the International Author’s Award and of the Audience Award of Heidelberg Play Market 2015), Ilona Goyeneche (Mexiko-Scout for Heidelberg Play Market 2015, Coordinación Cultural Goethe Institut Mexiko); | Photo (detail): Annemone Taake

For the first time a Latin American country was the guest at the Heidelberg Play Market. With their direct and unreserved theatre, which pulls no punches in treating their country’s socio-political situation, the Mexican guest left a lasting impression.

News about violence, drug cartels and riots have for some time now shaped the news about Mexico. So it is not surprising that Germans know little, if anything at all, about the state of the Mexican theatre. Many questions about the current Mexican scene are therefore obvious. The guest performances of Mexican theatre groups at the 2015 Heidelberg Play Market therefore raised several questions: how does Mexican theatre treat socio-political issues? How do theatre-makers there confront the current situation in their country?

The stagings and discussions of the four Mexican guest performances, three authors and theatre specialist invited to the 2015 Heidelberg Play Market soon revealed how great was their desire to depict the situation and reality of Mexico in all its diversity. The young Mexican writer and theatre-maker Ángel Hernández emphasized: “We’re not here to export our pain and our suffering to the world”, emphasized. “We want to talk not about the violence in our country but about the resistance to this violence.”

Theatre, poetic and politically direct

This year the Heidelberg Play Market set a political emphasis, and the guest country underscored this emphasis. Thus the initial questions about the social problems of the country in Mexican theatre were quickly answered. “Because this above all is what brought the Mexicans to Heidelberg: the knowledge that political theatre is at once poetic and radically concrete, and that sometimes a spade must be called a spade to get across to the audience”, wrote the theatre critic André Mumot at nachtkritik.de.

While contemporary German-language drama deals with a wide and varied range of subjects, the invited Mexican theatre-makers pointedly took up what for them are the most urgent socio-political issues. Documentary theatre and documentary elements embedded in fiction run through the programme. Based on research, the established theatre group Teatro Línea de Sombra depicted in their play Amarillo (Yellow) the situation of thousands of Central American immigrants who attempt to cross the border into the United States. A subject that at the present moment in Europe can easily open a dialogue.

Similarly, the theatre group Los Colochos Teatro’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, here called Mendoza, is more timely than ever. The play which takes place during the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, was more topical than ever. At the end of the performance, the Play Market audience could not hide their emotions when it became obvious how pertinent the play is to the present situation in Mexico with its high rate of criminality and many victims of violence and crime.

The performative monologue of the young theatre-maker Mariana Villegas, Se rompen las olas (The Waves Are Breaking), and the Mexican director David Gaitán’s “international return” – the adaptation of the text Von den Beinen zu kurz (Stumpy legs too short) by the Swiss writer Katja Brunner – in a cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Mexico, expanded the view on the Mexican theatre scene with a new perspective. Beginning with the earthquake of 1985, which destroyed large parts of Mexico City and still shapes the cityscape, Villegas embarked on a search for her own biography and identity. Gaitán for his part took up more emphatically the theme of child abuse in Brunner’s play by interweaving excerpts from the original text with his own passages. The Mexican writer Ángel Hernández in his play also treated an extremely strained father-daughter relationship.

Two awards for Mexico

Ángel Hernández was regarded as the favourite for the International Author’s Award, the main prize of the festival. His play Padre fragmentado dentro de una bolsa (Dismembered Father in a Plastic Bag) (i.e. Dismembered Father in a Plastic Bag), a multi-layered text, made an impression with its whose powerful images revealed metaphorically the current “dismembered” Mexican reality. It describes the situation of a young girl who confronts the violent death of her father, a Mafia criminal, at the hands of the drug cartel, while thereby refusing to fall into the role of the victim. Hernández also received the Audience Award.

In addition, Hugo Wirth from Mexico City came to grips with a society that has fallen prey to capitalism in his Precisiones para entender aquella tarde (Comments on the Events of That Afternoon) Conchi León from Yucatán treated in her Santificarás las Fiestas (Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep It Holy) an intimate and complicated family history.

With this year’s focus, Mexico showed the Heidelberg Play Market its current, very vigorous and turbulent theatre scene, with which the German-language theatre should remain in exchange.