The Festival d’Avignon presents UNA IMAGEN INTERIOR By El Conde de Torrefiel

The text of An Interior Image, a production by the Spanish company El Conde De Torrefiel currently performing at the Other Stage of the Grand Avignon in Vedène, is relegated to a bilingual surtitling control room. Who does your mind project into this role of narrator? A whimsical, childlike Björk might be appropriate. Sound and poetic music Maya Angelou could also work. My mind landed on the professorial tenor of David Attenborough. He was a good companion in a job that aspires to transcend “frames”.

The play begins with a large tarpaulin painted on the stage. It either looks like a lesser Pollock or the best of Rorschach. The tarp is up so we can see. The supertitle panel comes to life with word association. Words like “Scene”, “Theatre”, “Avignon” and “Heat” pass quickly. He then describes the stage action. We are then informed that we are in a museum and that this work is thousand years old. This painting is, above all, not a work of religious significance, but made for its own community purposes. We are introduced to some of the museum guests who throng the stage. We are told what brought them there, their reaction to the art and a bit about their personality.

The painting is removed for the second scene, which takes place in a supermarket. The caption asks, “How did this all get here? This world was once a desert.” An influencer struggles with all their travels and stress. Two people discuss; one assumes the other is an employee. They leave the stage. It’s around this time that abstract sculptures resembling fleshy alien mounds buzz. The former are very small, although one is as tall as a person. The word “Abstract” is added to the cavalcade of vocabulary flashing on the screen.

The text envisages “fictions”. These fictions include politics, identity and religion. It also includes more seemingly concrete things like shapes. “I don’t believe the square exists in nature.” I start laughing to myself because, in my mind at least, David Attenborough seems to have ingested more than he bargained for. A group of hip artists in tones and leather enter the space. They are the “friends” of the text. They hold their own ritual. Together, they then spread a white tarp on the ground and sprayed paint on it. The tarp is then folded and crushed, creating a painting that I imagine will open the next performance. It is up for us to see.

The intuitions of Pablo Gisbert’s texts are sometimes profound. Its ethos is a little more undergraduate stoner than Hamlet, but therein lies the charm. Manoly Rubio Garcia’s lighting, especially in the way he initially transforms the painting, is wonderfully poetic. It takes great advantage of the otherwise decried “frames”. Uriel Ireland and Rebecca Praga’s sound is more engaging and curious than almost anything you’re likely to find in the United States.

For a piece that is so keen on freeing itself from constraint, we are never given much to aspire to. That the people in the museum and the grocery store are cold and distant is consistent with the thesis of the work. Although I can’t understand why everyone seems to have taken The Matrixthe red pill as they, in earnest, splashed paint on the tarp. The work advocates intimacy and community, though ultimately their cast members seem as estranged from each other as museum-goers. Is this freshness our reward for transcendence?

Photo credit: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Betty K. Park