Amb aquest monòleg Josep Maria Miró es va convertir el 2020 en el primer autor que guanyava en tres ocasions el prestigiós premi Born. Una única veu —la de Pere Arquillué— per compartir amb el públic els secrets d’un petit poble on, aparentment, mai no passa res. Una veu per a tot un retaule de personatges i perspectives d’un únic fet. Aquesta funció, dirigida per Xavier Albertí, també és un d’aquests projectes on Arquillué cerca reptes artístics personals, com el Primer amor de Beckett, que també es va veure el 2013 al festival. Un gran autor, un gran director i un gran actor per a un text que deixa empremta.
The actor Pere Arquillué does his best with this verbose play: senselessly sordid and archaically pretentious. It is scripted in an off the cuff, stream of consciousness style; the playwright, Josep Maria Miró, does not lack confidence.
With the text kindly provided in English by the excellent Catalan Drama service, translated with evident patience by Dr. Sharon Feldman, The Nicest Body Ever Seen Around These Parts is a monologue for five voices: two men, three women: one, the archetype of a transgender woman, pink then blue hair, tiny tight shorts, a tired cliché catapulted from the past.
We begin with the voice of the alleged nice (it could be ‘beautiful’ but Feldman carefully goes for ‘nice’) body: a dead 17-year-old boy called Albert in red ripped swimming shorts, whose genitals have been bitten off (or perhaps just nibbled) by a dog. Proceeding from there, we hear the voice of his mother, Antonia: a needy woman who no one likes with a tragic husband who has killed himself. Moving on, Julia is the school principal, a cold individual with (naturally) a background in science. She is in her early 40s and thus naturally welcomes the 17-year-old intruder into her bed at night, delighting in his ‘erotic’ dribbling in her face. As it transpires, sexual assault or just plain rape is a regular activity of the youngster, who jumps first into the town residents’ swimming pools before making his slippery ascent onto their balconies and into their rooms: no one apparently resists this beautiful/nice body, perhaps because they are deeply troubled people, or perhaps because the playwright hopes to interest his audience in salacious content, or perhaps because the playwright is not following the news and is unaware that such themes should be treated with great care.
By contrast, there is also a foul mouthed chap, Richard, who owns a sawmill. His puzzling role is to insult Pink/Blue/Elyse (the transgender soul, an entirely performative role) – although we are warned in advance not to listen to Richard. There are other characters and may have been another voice actually, I can’t recall.
Anyway, what is this about? Could it be the claustrophobia and hypocrisy of a small town where one cannot openly be oneself? That old fig tree. Could it be that sex is employed as a liberating force, but then – tantalisingly – seems quite naughty too? These are dreary themes for our now frantic modern world, where we desperately need to engage with our inherited prejudices. If this were set in the past (Tom Selleck is mentioned) what, as the now problematic Morrissey once put it, does it say about my life?
In a lengthy afterward on the translation, the author – young enough to know better, younger than the actor, who deserves better – says the 2020 work was written in response to the tragic losses he suffered during the pandemic. One of those was the death of Josep Maria Benet i Jornet who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Benet’s phenomenal work, so precise and atmospheric, that opened worlds with few words, is this play's antithesis.