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Monday, 19 March 2018

Preview: Minefield at Newcastle Northern Stage


LOLA ARIAS’ HUGELY SUCCESSFUL MINEFIELD COMES TO NORTHERN STAGE AS PART OF A NATIONAL TOUR

Minefield
Newcastle Northern Stage
Thursday 22nd – Saturday 24th March 2018 

Following a critically and publicly acclaimed premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in 2016, Minefield has travelled around the globe and played to audiences of over 10,000 

Lola Arias’ production brings together veterans from both sides of the Falklands conflict 

Photo: Tristram Kenton
In a collaboratively created work with both British and Argentinian veterans, Lola Arias will bring the unanimously acclaimed Minefield back to the UK to a series of venues across the country. With the full original cast, the production will return for a UK tour in 2017/18 that will take it to major cities and military towns.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Widely regarded as a theatrical highlight of 2016, Minefield in a multi-media performance from Argentinian artist Lola Arias that uses archive footage, live feeds, music and projection to present the deeply personal and enduring stories of aftermath of conflict. In her singular style, Lola has worked with veterans Lou Armour, David Jackson, Gabriel Sagastume, Ruben Otero, Sukrim Rai and Marcelo Vallejo to create a production which tells their stories.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Gabriel Sagastume was a soldier who never wanted to shoot a gun, now he is a criminal lawyer. David Jackson spent the war listening and transcribing radio codes, now he listens to other veterans in his role as a counsellor. Marcelo Vallejo was a mortar direction controller, now he is a triathlon champion. Sukrim Rai was a Gurkha and expert with his knife, now he works as a security guard. Ruben Otero survived the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, now he’s in a Beatles tribute band. Lou Armour was on the front page of every newspaper when the Argentinians took him prisoner on the 2nd April, now he is a teacher for children with learning difficulties.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Lou Armour exlpained “What’s driven me to take part in this project is just how beautiful it is. War is awful, it damages not just those on the battlefield but family, friends and wider society. But out of something terrible and ugly has come something very beautiful – a play where humanity and redemption shines through.”

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Lola Arias said, “War isn’t what interests me, it’s what comes after the war that interests me. What matters to me is what happens to a person who went through that experience. What matters to me is what memory has done, what it has erased, what it has transformed.” 

In 2014, LIFT commissioned Lola to produce Veterans, a project commemorating the centenary of World War One. The resulting work was a video series of Argentinian veterans recollecting their involvement in war. This project evolved into the 2016 co-commissioned production of Minefield which premiered at Brighton Festival before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre as part of LIFT ’16.

We caught up with writer Lola Arias to discuss the process behind creating Minefield: 

What were your reasons or your need as an artist to create a piece from a conflict like the Falklands / Malvinas War?

Photo: Tristram Kenton
I grew up singing the verses of the Falklands March in the school: The Falklands are Argentinian, the wind cries and the sea roars, studying with a map of Argentina with the islands drawn as part of our territory, remembering the dead soldiers every 2nd of April. I grew up with the feeling that someone had stolen part of our country. But beyond this nationalistic fervor learned in school, I did not know much about the war, what the soldiers had experienced, how was the postwar for the veterans.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
The work was a way of thinking about what the war meant for those who fought and those who stayed watching television. Minefield is a study on the collateral effects of war on a group of veterans and on society. It is also a social experiment, to see what happens if we join old enemies to reconstruct history.

You have interviewed, filmed, war veterans from both sides, English and Argentine. We would like to ask you about the process, how you found them, to what extent they were convinced or willing to participate, what work mechanisms you used with human beings who have lived a limit experience.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
This project began in 2013, when London’s LIFT Festival invited me to participate in an event called After A War, commemorating one hundred years since the First World War. I started to investigate and interview Argentinian veterans to make filmed reconstructions of their memories in the places of their daily lives. Finally, I presented a video installation called Veterans. After that first video work, I started to wonder what the English people would have lived through and then I started thinking about doing a project with Argentinian and English veterans together reconstructing their memories of the war.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
The Argentinian veterans I interviewed were mostly civilians who had gone to war at 18 when they were doing military service, but some were also military. Most of them had begun their adult life after the war and had various professions, from doorman to opera singer. Some spoke of the thefts of food, of the lack of organization, of the cold; others spoke of a heroic deed, of courage, of fighting. The English were all military. Many of them had retired very young, had later gone on to a university career and also had titles of teachers or psychologists. They talked a lot about military tactics, but also about what it means to kill or see die. It was interesting to discover that both Argentinian and English men felt that their lives had been split in two by the experience of the war and that there was a before and an after. Everyone had a story to tell, something that had been fixed in their memory after more than thirty years.

You never know how people will react to the experiment of rebuilding their own lives. Before the rehearsals, we had the veterans taken to a psychological care center for advice. But in the end, in the process itself things are defined. In some cases, we had to ask for help from specialists, in other cases we discovered how to work in the process itself.

Everything that an artist uses as documentary material, at the moment of giving it a form, inevitably becomes a fiction. Can you tell us about this delicate relationship between fiction and documentary?

Photo: Tristram Kenton
At the very moment that someone tells his life, it is transformed into a fiction. Each person has a way of telling, of writing their own life. In some way, I rewrite other people's lives from successive interviews, meetings, and rehearsals. And then I go gathering pieces to put together a single story of many lives.

In the process, each of the protagonists receives their own life transformed into a text and begins a complex process of negotiations between what they want to say and what they do not. As they begin to repeat the text, a strange phenomenon begins to take place, a distancing between the person and what he narrates. Then he begins to see his life from the outside, to think of it as a story among others.

How does artist Lola Arias manage to make art and not pamphlet or settling scores?

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Minefield is a bilingual work, which tells the story of veterans from two countries. The absurdity of the Argentinian military regime embodied by Galtieri or the warmongering haughtiness of Tatcher are not the focus of the project, although they appear briefly in some scene. The work focuses mainly on the collateral effects that the war had on those who fought. Obviously, relations are established with the political context that had direct consequences on the lives of the protagonists. But throughout the work there is something very personal, very mental. What remains in the memory of someone who went to war? How is that story transformed over the years? Theater of War, the film with the same protagonists as Minefield and which was rolled largely in parallel with the rehearsals and tours, also works around these topics. The film recently premiered at Berlinale.

The war for the Malvinas Islands happened at a historical moment prior to the appearance of social networks. What can you tell us about the propaganda, about the censorship that was coming before, to the point of celebrating the entire country with euphoria a World Cup (1978) as if nothing happened?

Photo: Tristram Kenton
The Falklands War was a strategy of the military government to recover popularity in a moment of crisis, when the first mass demonstrations against the regime began to take place. At first it worked because there were very few people who stayed on the sidelines against the patriotic fervor of the moment. In the newspapers, the magazines and in the street it was said that we were winning. There was a jingle that was sung on the television at all hours that said: “They have never beaten us, they will never beat us! Argentines to win!” That kind of fervor is like a worm that stays somewhere in the head.

In the show, something of all this appears, especially the contrast with the postwar period. When the dictatorship fell in 1983, no one wanted to know anything about the veterans because they reminded the country of defeat, the dead and the military government. Therefore, for years those who went to war had no recognition, no pension, no psychological help. Argentinian veterans talk about all this, how it cost them to return to the world after having gone to war.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
In the case of England, the Falklands War helped the government of Margaret Thatcher to regain popularity and be re-elected the following year. For that reason, somehow it is said that the Falklands War and the battle against the miners in Olgrave were the two combats (one against an internal enemy and another agains and internal one) that imposed the policy of Thatcher in the eighties. From then on, it can be said that labor flexibilit, mass privatization of public companies and control of the unions began.

The English veterans never wanted to talk about politics. It's almost like it's a word they're afraid of. Most of them don’t even go to vote. However, when they came to rehearse in Argentina, they discovered the political dimension of the conflict in which they participated and even questioned their own convictions. There is one of them who said, half-jokingly: “After two months in Argentina talking about the war, I am beginning to believe that the Falklands are Argentine.”

How do you conceive the relationship between art and memory in your works? 

Minefield is like no other of my projects; a time machine. The protagonists return to a historical moment to represent what they lived. Somehow the spectators also do that exercise when they see the play. They go back, they think about where they were and what they did when they narrated things. In a way, the theatre becomes a collective memory exercise.


Minefield was originally commissioned and co-produced by LIFT, Royal Court Theatre, Brighton Festival Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Theaterformen, Le Quai Angers, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Maison des Arts de Créteil and Humain Trop Humain / CDN de Montpellier.

The 2017/2018 UK tour of Minefield is part of LIFT’s ongoing commitment to taking pioneering, international work across the UK and follows the recent sell-out tour of Depart, a site specific contemporary circus performance led by Circa that travelled to parks and cemeteries in Hull, Brighton and Blackpool earlier this year. LIFT is currently working with a new network of producing theatres and UK Festivals to collaborate on international commissions and tours to encourage a greater supply and demand of international work across the UK. 

Company:
Written and directed by Lola Arias
With Lou Armour, David Jackson, Gabriel Sagastume, Ruben Otero, Sukrim Rai, Marcelo Vallejo
Research & Production. Sofia Medici, Luz Algranti
Set: Mariana Tirantte
Music: Ulises Conti
Light: David Seldes
Video: Martin Borini
UK tour produced by Matt Burman for LIFT

On The Web:


Twitter: @liftfestival
Instagram: @liftfesival
Facebook: theliftfestival

Tickets:

From £10. Limited availability so book early.
Running time
1hr 40mins
Post-show discussion
Fri 23 Mar
Age recommendation
14+ (Contains strong language and violent scenes)
Warnings
Contains loud bangs and strobe lighting

Tickets available from www.northernstage.co.uk/Event/minefield or call 0191 230 5151



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