An interview with Lola Arias
Brighton Festival will present the UK premiere of My Life After from Fri 24 - Sun 26 May. We spoke to Buenos Aires-based writer / director Lola Arias about the genesis of this uniquely personal response to the Argentina of her parents' generation.
My Life After reconstructs the lives of the parents of the actors in the play. How much input did the cast have?
When I started the research for the play, I had only the concept: a group of young people born during the Argentinean dictatorship reconstruct the life of their parents. With this idea, I started interviewing people. I chose these 6 performers - not all of them are professional actors - because of their stories. I wanted to have people with different backgrounds: Carla is a daughter of a soldier of the ERP (Revolutionary Army of the People) who was killed in combat, Vanina is the daughter of a policeman who worked under covered and participated in torture… All of the performers participated in the investigations of their own family story but the concept and the text is mine.
Do the personal stories change if a cast member is replaced? Or do actors inherit the story in the script?
No actor was ever replaced in this piece. If an actor can’t be part of a tour, the story is cut from the play. The concept is very important: everybody is telling his or her own story.
Is this documentary theatre, a historical investigation or a mixture of fact and fiction?
You can call it documentary theatre because the play is based in documents, facts from the past. But I call it theatre. The performers reconstruct the life of their parents through their own family photo album, letters, tapes... But there is also a lot of fiction in it. They do re-enactments of scenes from the past, based on what someone told them or blurry memories… The past is also a fiction that changes every time we transform it into a story to tell to others.
What are your memories of growing up in Buenos Aires?
I grew up in small house in the very centre of the city. My mother is a literature teacher, my father an architect. The brother of my mother was part of the guerrilla and went into exile in Brazil; the son of my father’s partner disappeared but we never spoke about it at home. So what I remember is this kind of unspoken fear.
Are the clothes, photographs, letters and other props used the genuine articles owned by the actors' parents?
Most of them are original objects. We travelled already to 22 festivals all over the world with a small box with photos, mini cars and some other small objects from the performers. There are also 400 items of clothes on stage. But this is too heavy to put on the plane!
My Life After will be performed in Spanish with English surtitles, why is it important to present the work in your native tongue?
It is the story of these people in Argentina and we speak Spanish! The fact that English became the global language of communication doesn’t mean every piece of art should be done in English… Would you make this question to an Argentinean film director? I guess no. Well, it’s the same. We speak our language and you can read the subtitles or… learn to speak Spanish!
What do you want British audiences to take away from the show?
I don’t have any kind of particular expectation about British audiences. I always expect that the piece creates some kind of reflection about how our private lives are also determined by politics. This is a very personal portrait of six young people from Argentina but it’s also a portrait about how is life under a dictatorship.