Director Kate O’Connor discusses adapting Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez’s Cuzco

Kate O'ConnorInitially premiering at Theatre Español, Valencia in 2017, Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez’s pertinent production Cuzco receives its UK debut at Theatre503. The young celebrated playwright’s work explores  topics of intimacy within our continually globalised world and the clash between colonial history and commercial tourism. Directed by Kate O’Connor and translated by William Gregory, Cuzco allows for a UK audience to ‘experience the very best of contemporary Spanish playwriting’. Ahead of the show, Kate talks to us about the journey she’s been on with Cuzco, William’s vital role in terms of translating the show and what audiences can expect!
Hi Kate, you’re currently directing Víctor Sánchez Rodriguez’s Cuzco – translated by William Gregory and due to be performed at the Theatre503 from late January.  How are you feeling ahead of the production?

Extremely excited! We’ve been lucky enough to assemble the most brilliant cast and creative team I could have wished for – I can’t wait to see how it all comes together at Theatre503. I saw the writer, Víctor’s own production of Cuzco in Madrid a few weeks ago and was blown away so I really want to do his play justice while finding new resonances for audiences here in London.

This will mark the UK premiere of the production written by acclaimed Spanish playwright Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez. What was it about the production that inspired you to direct it?

I feel like I’ve been on a journey with Cuzco – a bit like the two protagonists, who travel to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. When I first read it I was very moved by the personal story of a relationship in crisis and then overwhelmingly curious about all the other elements Víctor brings in. There are layers of culture and history, including Inca mythology and the colonial era, all seen through the lens of contemporary globalised tourism. Having worked on the play for a while now I understand better the questions he’s asking, about what it means to be from a certain place or speak a certain language today. My main reason for wanting to direct this play is the conviction that these are vital questions for us to be asking in the UK.

How have you approached directing the show? What was your process?

It’s a very complex text, with moments of humour, tragedy and poetry, sometimes all at once. In order to find a path through it I had to be very clear about which elements we wanted to focus on. An overarching theme we want to bring out is the sense of the uncanny which can emerge when you travel from one side of the world to another. There are also some exciting theatrical challenges which I’ve been working on with the design team, but I wouldn’t want to give away any surprises!

Translated by William Gregory, he plays a vital role also within the rehearsal process, how in particular has he helped to shape the show?

William’s role has been crucial in so many ways, not least in discovering the play itself. He met Víctor at a translator/playwright speed-dating event in Madrid, and translated the play off his own bat. His belief that Cuzco deserved an English-language production is literally the reason we’re here today. And now we’re here, he’s able to provide invaluable insights to both me and the actors. Translating isn’t just about the sense of the words on the page, it also involves a deep understanding of both cultures and performance contexts. We’re so lucky to have access to William’s knowledge and ideas to help us extend this conversation to audiences.

Cuzco explores intimacy in a globalised world, the clash between colonial history and commercial tourism, as well as the topics of nationality and language. Why in particular is it important to focus on these themes?

I think that globalisation can really mess with our sense of history and place in the world. You can’t learn everything from a guidebook, and just because you can Skype someone in an instant, or Google translate a phrase from another language, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are more connected. These are issues that our generation is grappling with, but they’re often talked about in very academic and detached terms, which means that we don’t think about how they impact upon our daily lives and relationships. The brilliant thing about Cuzco is that it explores them through a personal story that we can all relate to.

What can audiences expect from the show?

Three things:

A tragic love story.

The opportunity to experience the best of contemporary Spanish playwriting.

The unexpected!

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

In January 2019, working on a European play in London, it would be weird if we didn’t have certain themes playing on our minds at least a bit. Don’t worry, it’s not a play about Brexit! But I would like audiences to sense that it’s a project that emerged from a close collaboration between artists and organisations across Europe. It’s not only a play about crossing different languages and cultures, but these processes have been at the heart of the project itself. We strongly believe that such cultural exchange is going to become even more critical over the coming months and years, and hope that audiences will take away this conviction.

What advice would you give to aspiring directors?

My advice would be: don’t expect things to go the way you plan. It’s not a job with a clear career progression and sometimes the most rewarding and meaningful experiences are those you least expect. This can make it difficult to talk about your work and ambitions with people from outside the theatre industry, who just don’t get it – be prepared for some bewildered expressions. Also: perseverance.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Cuzco will be showing from Wednesday 23rd January until Saturday 16th February 2019 at Theatre503. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop