Festival Hot Seat... Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal
Chilean company Silencio Blanco tells us more about the UK Premiere of their show Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal at Brighton Festival.
Can you tell us what your show is about?
Chiflón, The Silence of the Coal is the story of the mines, from the perspective of the people who worked them. A young miner is expelled from the coal pit where he works, and to keep working he has to accept a job in ‘El Chiflón del Diablo’, an infamously sinister mine. Silencio Blanco portrays the miners’ world through everyday situations and anonymous characters - also focusing on the role of women in these mining communities.
How and where will it be staged?
Chiflón is going to be presented at the Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, and it’s a simple collaboration between the puppets and their manipulators, who give life to the marionettes in a manner almost like a little dance between them. This is supplemented with simple scenery made with recycled materials like old wood, to show the simplicity of the work and the lifelike detail of every movement.
Why should someone come and see your show?
This play is unmissable, primarily for the visual language that’s used: marionettes constructed of newspaper and chopsticks, which, together with other day-to-day elements that have been recycled and re-purposed, give life to these bodies and to a fascinating and moving story.
Furthermore, despite us coming from far-away Chile - at the edge of Latin America - this language allows us to tell a completely universal story, focusing on the depths of these people, touching the very fibres of their being through everyday situations, just using movement and gesture.
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
This play emerged from our intention to portray a particular job, a lost job, anonymous and lonely. That’s why we chose miners, inspired by Baldomero Lillo’s tale, Chiflón Del Diablo. Lillo is a brilliant Chilean author, naturalist, and witness of the world that he observes. He is considered to be the Chilean Emile Zola.
To develop the idea and the inspiration, we traveled to the town of Lota, in southern Chile, where we met mining families and ex-miners that today have no jobs. They told us their stories and experiences, their sadness, pains and dreams, and we realised that the miners’ history is a living treasure that we want to tell with our work.
Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Mainly because it’s a universal story.
It’s inspired by a town in Chile, but it cuts across all of humanity, because it talks about the human emotions of the workers faced with these conditions, and the role of the women and their uncertainty of not knowing if their men will come back from the mine or not.
Also because it talks about history - from the little stories of anonymous characters and the daily situations they face. It tells history from the perspective of the defeated, not the winners.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
Anyone aged 6 to 99.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
The magic of the marionettes – how delicate and natural they are.
The illusion that can be produced through the marionettes is able to stir even the deepest emotion in the heart.
Have you visited Brighton before? What were/are your impressions of the city?
No we haven’t visited Brighton before, but we’re really excited to get to know the city and enjoy the festival. We don’t have any expectations – we just want have fun and enjoy it – but we hope people there will love and enjoy our work, which was prepared with a lot of love, care, attention to detail and, of course, hard work.
This year marks 50 years of Brighton Festival. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival in this milestone year?
We’re excited to be part of this huge festival and celebrate together the 50th anniversary. To us, it’s very important be part of this, because this is the first time that a Chilean company has participated in Brighton Festival, so it’s an honour to represent our country there – particularly with a very Chilean story, the story of the miners. It’s a privilege to present this work, and we are sure that everyone is going to enjoy it. We are bringing you a little piece of our history.