After bringing theatre to unconventional locations, this cultural project continues to develop fantastic ideas
The Portuguese expression “lavrar o mar”, meaning to plough the sea, is used in sardine fishing. “For us, it means transforming the dynamics in inland Algarve and the Alentejo coastline, to awaken a new cultural life,” explains Madalena Victorino, one of the project’s mentors, along with Italian cultural programmer Giacomo Scalisi.
Madalena is perhaps Portugal’s most famous choreographer who has an abundance of experience with involving local communities in contemporary creations, both foreign residents and floating populations. “There are new people occupying these areas and others who have always lived here. There is a youth that is craving for something to happen in their home. It’s as if the land is thirsty,” she says. “Our idea is to use local heritage, nature, the landscape and all the human culture, both ancient and current,” she adds.
Since 2016, a combination of natural cycles and the elements of water, fire and air have been at the heart of the programme for the last three editions of Lavrar o Mar — Arts in the Highlands and the Costa Vicentina, which usually takes place between October and May. The fourth season is inspired by the earth element. “It will be a more challenging and daring edition,” says Giacomo. The project has always highlighted culinary theatre, and this year is no exception.
The 2019/2020 edition began with ‘O Presente de César’ (Cesar’s Gift), a play which was originally commissioned by the Viriatro Theatre, in Viseu, to tour the Dão-Lafões region. The show took place from November 28 to December 1 during the Aljezur Sweet Potato Festival at Casa do Povo do Rogil.
“It’s a very powerful show; very political. It’s about how Salazar’s dictatorship used [cod] fishing as propaganda for the regime. It was a very hard life, with a lot of family drama. Our technical manager, Joaquim Madaíl, is from Ílhavo, and his father was a fishing captain. He used to tell me a lot of stories. It’s such a strong thing, and so Portuguese, that it really deserved a show,” Giacomo explains.
A board dinner was served, with the evening’s special menu consisting of “chora” soup, codfish with sweet potatoes, fried codfish tongues with cinnamon, honey and Monchique pear and, of course, wine. The event will return from December 5-8, at 7.30pm, at Casa do Povo de Alferce.
Following the tradition that since 2016 has continued to bring more and more people to Monchique near the end of the year, 2019’s finale will celebrate an event “never seen before in the Algarve’s countryside”. This time, Giacomo and Madalena will bring two new circus tents to the heliport, between December 27 and January 5 (except on the 30th and 2nd), with the highlight on none other than New Year’s Eve. On top of the circus addition, there will also be a concert by the newly-premiered Vicentina Orchestra: “They will help us face the cold of the mountains with their warm rhythms, along with the food and drinks that are part of this party.” Despite the party’s simple atmosphere, guests can certainly expect an unforgettable celebration.
As for the performances, the first is ‘Les Dodos’, by the French troupe L P’tit Cirk. “It’s the work of a group of young people who recently graduated in performing arts and who have a very special relationship with guitars. There are more than 100 on stage and they do everything with them, from music to acrobatics,” says Giacomo.
“It’s a very surprising spectacle. We want to show less traditional ways of doing new circus.” It starts at 6pm, though Giacomo assures there is much more than just a show. “The idea is that people come early, have dinner in Monchique and stay to see what’s next.”
The show ‘Forever, happily’, from Belgium’s Collectif Malunés, begins at 9.30pm. “It’s a story inspired by the world of fairytales, red riding hoods and sleeping beauties, which take a different turn from what we know. It’s quite political and challenges stereotypes. Are all wolves always bad and are princesses always good?” says Madalena Victorino.
New for 2020 comes a project centred around walks with art in nature. There will be “10 trails in Aljezur and just as many in Monchique, in the middle of nature, for groups of up to 15 people, accompanied by choreographers, actors, directors, scientists and philosophers, on Sunday morning. These people are looking at the world and have their own thought; they venture into quiet paths and where dialogue is possible.” At the end, guests will also have time to enjoy a convivial lunch. The calendar is still being defined in conjunction with the Rota Vicentina association.
As in the previous edition of Lavrar o Mar, on Easter Sunday there will be “a great music concert in a wonderful location”. And, of course, Madalena Victorino is already preparing her creation. Her project, provisionally titled ‘When I go to Earth’, will be showcased from May 28 to 31 in a forest in Monchique. Tickets can be purchased online.
Lavrar o Mar is sponsored by the city councils of Aljezur and Monchique, the 365 Algarve cultural programme, CRESC Algarve development project and the Directorate-General for the Arts.
The full programme can be found on the initiative’s website, www.lavraromar.pt
By Bruno Filipe Pires