L'onze de setembre del 2021, una important família de l'alta burgesia barcelonina rep una visita inesperada que farà sortir a la llum el secret més terrible de la història familiar. Una visita que provocarà un viatge per tres segles i tres continents que han marcat la història de casa nostra. Una visita que farà que res torni a ser igual.
This frustrating and superficial piece about historic racism in Catalonia adopts the global discourse centred on the slave economy as a means to frame, but also totally avoid a more self-critical local debate. Performed before an overwhelmingly white audience (at odds with the racial demographic of the city), the production is about a loaded Catalan family, whose wealth is derived from the 18th and 19th century slave trade between Africa and Cuba.
Amèrica is directed by Julio Manrique, who tries to animate Sergi Pompermayer’s verbose script with videoclips containing a mishmash of contemporary cultural references, which don’t help us at all. Bizarrely, both director and playwright are white men, and young enough to know that this is an issue. Ironically, Amèrica is the name given to the play’s black female protagonist, a 19th-century slave girl (played by Tamara Ndong) by Juan (Joan Carreras), a Spanish-speaking slave owner in Cuba. Used and abused, Amèrica's fate is revisited in the 21st century through the story of Kayla (Ndong again), a young black woman who is in a relationship with Max (Mark Bosch), the son of Juan’s Catalan-speaking descendants. Kayla, being Black, brings up the past, and brings out their veiled and not-so-veiled bigotry.
Admittedly, the dialogue in this piece was for me difficult to follow, and the switching between Catalan and Spanish, while logical, a bit problematic. (Kayla claims at one point that the family are racist as they assume that she is a Spanish-speaker who does not speak Catalan).
Back-to-back shows on Saturday evening and a production longer than the 90 minutes claimed, seemed a bind on the actors; I suspect a certain disconnection with the material – particularly on the part of Carreras, who really deserves better. They trip through their lines, as if happy to be free of them, through a chain of identical alcohol-fuelled scenes. The most memorable characters are given the space to act in: keen home-help Paula (Aida Llop), and caustic granny Andrea (Carme Fortuny) could have carried the play alone.
Exhausted archetypes abound, not least of the gender variety: Cristina, portrayed by poor Mireia Aixalà, is just tiresome: a g&t fan (but why Tanqueray, and not Seagrams – the cloying and overpriced American gin?), she succeeds in getting the attention she craves by vomiting in the dessert. Patriarch Joan (Carreras again) is a drunk of the more-manly whisky type. He makes his money through unscrupulous business practices (real estate, of course) conducted via text message. Max appears woke, but is as materialistic as his family. At least his motivations are deemed worthy of interrogation; Kayla’s are never even explored.