Una delicada peça de teatre d’objectes basada en les redaccions d’uns nens que no han vist mai el mar.
Aquesta és la història d’una promesa que no es va poder complir, la que va fer un mestre als seus alumnes. El mestre era Antoni Benaiges. Els alumnes eren els nens i nenes de l’escola rural de Bañuelos de Bureba, un poble de la província de Burgos. La promesa la va fer un dia d’hivern de l’any 1936. Els va prometre el mar.
L'any 1934 el jove mestre català Antoni Benaiges arriba a l'escola rural de Bañuelos de Bureba, un petit poble de Burgos. Pocs mesos després paga de la seva butxaca una empremta i un gramòfon. Des d'aquell mateix any, els nens i les nenes publiquen les seves emocions, somnis i pensaments.
El mes de gener de 1936, els nens i les nenes publiquen El mar. Visión de unos niños que no lo han visto nunca. El quadern «conté, en format de vers, més que de prosa, les expressions dels escolars de com s'imaginen el mar, les seves pors i els seus somnis». El mestre els promet que aquell mateix estiu els portarà a Catalunya perquè coneguin el mar. El 25 de juliol de 1936 Benaiges és afusellat. La promesa del mestre ja no es podrà complir.
La peça –fruit de la nostra primera trobada com a creadors– proposa un dispositiu en el que els objectes, el poema i el material documental conviuen sense jerarquies.
Antoni Benaiges was born into a family of rural republicans in Montroig, Tarragona in 1903. He trained as a ‘mestre’, a teacher, and on graduating found work in a mixed school in a tiny village in Bañuelos de Bureba, Burgos. There, in a brief two years, Benaiges not only quietly revolutionised the lives of the children, but also sowed seeds that shook up Spanish teaching in general.
Benaiges applied the innovative methods of French pedagogue Célestin Freinet into his own rudimentary classroom. He brought in a basic printing press, along with a gramophone, encouraging the children to produce illustrated publications describing and drawing their own experiences. He gave space to their hopes and dreams, among which, was to see the sea for the first time. He made a promise that he would take them to the Catalan coast where he grew up, but the promise was never kept. In 1936, at the age of 33, Benaiges was shot by the fascist militia group La Falange.
Spanish dramaturg Alberto Conejero and Catalan visual poet Xavier Bobés team up to tell the story of Benaiges in a stage production comprising found and reproduced objects, and found and reproduced words. A process of investigation began when Conejero, creator of acclaimed 2013 play La piedra oscura that also broached Spain’s troubled past, discovered the 2017 book by the journalist Francesc Escribano, historian Queralt Solé, and photographer Sergi Bernal. It pieced together the story of the forgotten school teacher, when his body was thought to be among those exhumed from a common grave in La Pedraja, Burgos in 2010.
Sergi Torrecilla plays Benaiges in the play, which seeks to celebrate the enthusiasm and vision of a tutor who wished to learn from the children as much as he wished to teach them. “He made the children's lives in an isolated village, without electricity or potable water, important”, says Conejero. Benaiges encouraged the children to cooperate and create, be “authors of their own stories, not just subjects of someone else’s”.
The production draws on Benaiges own writings in Spanish, as well as the words of the children, but also applies the Freinet methodology to the rehearsal space, in what Torrecilla calls, “an education in life, and in how to relate to one another as human beings”.
Xavier Bobés, whose visually poetic pieces, such as Coses que s’obliden fàcilment evoke memory and promote empathy through objects even though they may be unfamiliar culturally, explains that this was the first time he had worked in the same way with text. “Most of the materials we use here are genuine, or reproductions, we make use of a Freinet printing press, plus reproductions of the illustrated booklets, now very fragile, that the children created, as a means to transport us to the past.”
Benaiges was among some 400 teachers, women and men, killed by Franco’s militia in a 12-month period. “At a time when we are once again subject to such dangerous deeply-conservative discourse,” says Conejero, “it is time to pay homage to Benaiges, and to all teachers who believe in learning as a lifelong study of how to be human.”