Disaster in the Spanish theatre

El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze, fighting for survival during the coronavirus crisis

The film industry and theatre are part of our daily lives, and in a world paralyzed by a pandemic they are, perhaps, not valued enough. Especially the theatre, which has survived many crises, has been forced to reinvent and redefine itself time and time again.

Kamikaze Producciones and Buxman Producciones are two theatre companies that survived the economic crisis of 2008. They have been fighting for years against the precarious situation of the theatre industry in Spain, but have received little help from the government. Instead they have learned how to deal with this circumstance and get ahead. In 2016, they decided to join forces and merge to create a single company: El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze.

El Pavon Teatro Kamikaze

In addition to touring Spain, the company has its own theatre in Madrid, where it performs part of its functions. This 2019/2020 season was their fourth in the world of theatre, but due to COVID-19, they have been forced to suspend all their tours, performances and theatre shows.

All the actors and actresses of the six shows they had on the bill have been laid off, and only those who receive the unemployment benefit offered by the Spanish Government will receive an income. Like El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze, 90 percent of the country’s culture is in this situation, the worst part is that the government seems to not care.

Click here to discover a timeline about the history of El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze: https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/2287173

In addition, El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze not only tours throughout Spain, it also performs internationally. “La función por hacer” (The performance to be made) and “Juicio a una zorra” (Judgment of a bitch) were two performances that toured South America.

La función por hacer,” the productions most famous creation, toured France.

"La función por hacer"Miguel del Arco, director of El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze, explains in an interview with EFE in 2013 that “Spain is a country that recognizes very few on its own mistakes. The Government doesn’t give a shit about culture”. Seven years later, he reaffirms that “culture in Spain matters, and this is something I don’t have to discover myself.”

In the debates of the 2019 national elections, many things were discussed, culture was not one. Now with a left-wing government, it is unthinkable that the Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, would say at a press conference that there are no plans for the cultural sector because “life comes before cinema.”

After more than and a month and a half of silence, del Arco expressed his disappointment of Minister Rodriguez Uribes. It was expected that the head of culture in Spain would establish a series of lines for its protection, however, he did not announce any concrete measures for the sector.

“This is a sector that has been hit hard by the economic consequences of the pandemic. They live off the public, but they are aware that people’s lives come before the cinema.”

"Jauría"

“Imagine if the Minister of Industry would come out at a press conference and say that ‘life comes before steel and factories’…

“…that would be completely ridiculous. You are the Minister of Culture, and 700,000 people in Spain depend on your decisions and on measures to continue with their lives,” Miguel del Arco said angrily.

Spain’s situation is completely different to that of other European countries. On May 6th in France, Emmanuel Macron made it clear that there would be a rescue of the countries cultural sector. Macron spoke of an ambition to revive culture, in a country where approximately 1,300,000 people are involved in the cultural industry. Among the many measures, the most important one was related to the freelance workers of the performing arts, who were set to receive a monthly compensation until August, 2021.

France was joined days later by Germany when Culture Minister Monika Grütters announced that she was “not going to leave the sector in the lurch, since culture is one of those basic necessities.”

Three days after the public appearance of the French leader, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel publicly announced that Germany would take specific measures to revive culture. “We will continue to look at what measures will continue to be necessary for culture, because our goal is that our diverse and broad cultural landscape can continue to exist once the pandemic is over.”

She further stated that culture is extremely important in everyone’s life, not only during the pandemic, but after as well.

del Arco explains that in El Pavón Tearo Kamikaze the situation is “chaotic, terrifying” since all the artistic staff has been let go without income.

“For the actors this is a massacre, the artistic part of the company is on the f–king street. People who talk without knowing and say that all actors are rich and have big houses and luxury goods are wrong. It’s true that there are actors like that, but they are the most famous, and they represent a tiny percentage of those 700,000 people who make up the industry.”

Since the cast are not apart of the company’s permanent staff due to contracts that only span so many months, they cannot be part of the ERTE that established El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze, which included the company’s permanent staff: tickets office, back office, theatre building workers

The ERTE is a measure taken by companies when, for justified reasons, decide to temporarily suspend or reduce the contracts of their employees. However, they still receive 90% of their salary.

Miguel del Arco

 

The impossibility of 30 percent

The Government of Spain established that in the third phase of its post-lockdown reopening plans, cinemas, theatres and entertainment centres could begin operating at 30 percent of their capacity, provided that hygiene and health regulations were respected and safety distance were maintained.

However, del Arco was emphatic and critical, “It is impossible to open at 30 percent of capacity. We cannot raise the curtain at a loss, we cannot start a show knowing that we are losing money. And if we do open, we would have to hire more staff because of the health issue, which translates into more salaries with less income. It’s a completely unsustainable situation” he says.

The (not so) near future

The lack of answers from Minister Rodriguez Uribes leads to an uncertainty and anxiety in a sector that represents 2.97% of the GDP in Spain.

“Theatre is the art of meeting. The beautiful thing about theatre is that 400 people sit together in a room, and together they exercise empathy, the art of understanding each other and what is happening on stage” says del Arco.

The company is unsure as to what is going to happen, but they know they will have to redefine theatre.

The internationally renown actor Antonio Banderas, owner of Soho Theatre in Málaga, proposed to the Spanish Government nine measures to save the theatre in the post-coronavirus era.

Among them, reduce the price of tickets, add disinfectant carpets at the entrance of the theatre, provide masks and hidrogel for the whole venue and a process of disinfection after the performances. These measures may be the first steps towards the new normal in the theatre, although it is clear that, appealing to realism, a lot has to happen before it returns to the way it was known before.

Antonio Banderas - Soho Theatre