Manuel Moya stars in Cheek by Jowl’s first Spanish-language production Life is a Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
One of the most famous plays of the Spanish Golden Age, this production has its première at Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville, before touring to Girona, Valladolid, Valencia, Madrid and Albi (France) in its first season. The production will then return to the Barbican where the company are Artistic Associates, for its UK premiere from 13 April to 16 April 2023, with further dates to be announced.
Performed by an ensemble of Spanish actors, Declan Donnellan directs Ernesto Arias, Prince Ezeanyim, David Luque, Manuel Moya, Rebeca Matellán, Alfredo Noval, Goizalde Núñez, Antonio Prieto and Irene Serrano.
You star in Life is a Dream, what can you tell us about the play?
I could say many things. One of them is that it is a privilege to be able to have these words of Calderón and approach the public of today, more than 400 years later to continue questioning and opening new doors of our existence. Approaching this text from the perspective that Declan has proposed is wonderful. It has made me rediscover a new work. Many new questions.
Why do you think Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s script has remained so popular?
The questions that Calderón asks us are questions that are still powerful today. Mysterious and enigmatic. The human being wanders through his time and there are no concrete answers to these enigmas. Calderón asked him then and we do now; to this day, we continue to look for ourselves in those same questions: (What is life?). Impossible to answer. Let’s continue our search on that path that Calderón drew for us.
You have been touring Spain and France, how has the public reacted so far?
The reception that the work has had is wonderful. We are with the public, hand in hand, trying not to get lost in the thresholds of sleep and reason. They see it and want to participate in it. The experience is being very rewarding.
I’m really looking forward to coming to London and sharing this experience. I believe that the work opens the doors to something that is universal and inherent to the human being. That shows that despite the differences, there are still commonplaces. The public ceases to be passive and becomes part of a community with us.
And what are you excited about now taking it to London and the Barbican?
I am nervous and eager to feel the London public. I respect and admire English theatre. It is a pleasure to come here, to the house of Cheek by Jowl with this work. When the company went to Madrid it was a very special moment. Declan and his productions have made me discover new theatrical horizons.
I hope people enjoy watching it like we do it.
What have you found most challenging about your role?
Astolfo is all the time surrounding and observing without clearly saying his intentions. He is a being with two eyes behind the sight of the shotgun while smiling. It is duality of the calm danger, of the silent shot. Declan says it’s a shark. Then I understood the behaviour of almost all politicians. And we have those attitudes very close every day. Astolfo is a political machine with all that this entails. Inhabiting these horizons every night, with a war a few kilometres from home makes me see it from a place of civil responsibility. The story we don’t see and that has to be told.
What would you say to someone thinking of booking to see Life is a Dream?
I would tell you not to hesitate to book and dare to cross the thresholds of dream and reality. The line is very thin and delicate and you have to be attentive. We do not know when the dream crosses and makes us lose perspective of reality. It is a journey to the most profound and to the light of the human being. I would love to live this experience with you.