Written by Dino Lanti, Cuentos Cruentos is an original Spanish musical that offers a contemporary twist on a number of our favourite traditional tales. The Seven Dwarves are on unemployment benefits, an overweight Cinderella can’t pay for her glass slippers and Alice gets lost in Wonderland after popping one too many pills. With these classic childhood characters thrust into the daily struggles of modern-day Spain, Teatro Calánime’s fourth cycle of their dark and delicious comedy made for a veritable feast of delights.
Firstly, it must be said that this was an extremely polished and well-rehearsed production. There wasn’t a line, note or step out of place during the 75-minute show, and credit must be given to actors Joan Rigat, Pau Rubio and Mariona Ginès for demonstrating an unwavering sense of professionalism and focus throughout. Presenting the audience with seven different stories—each culminating in a moraleja (‘a moral’)—the trio showed extraordinary skill and versatility in changing characters every few minutes, all of which were grotesque and exaggerated interpretations of their originals. Regarding the actors themselves, Rigat’s limitless energy supply and Rubio’s slick comic timing were engaging, but Ginès had a particularly magnetic stage presence. She manipulated her facial expression and physicality to great effect, convincingly playing a gangster dwarf one minute, and a hypnotised Barbie doll the next.
The real strength of the piece, however, lies in its music. Instrumentalists Pau Baiges and Håvard Enstad showcased some serious talent by underscoring almost the entire production with only a keyboard, cello and accordion at their disposal. Performing a number of original pieces that spanned various music genres (including tango and hip-hop), they were also in tune with the actors aesthetically, wearing monochromatic costumes and white make-up to help maintain an immersive and eerily gothic feel to the performance. Through their impressive vocal range and gorgeous harmonies, the actors more than matched their piano-playing counterparts in their singing, and their a cappella rendition of Los Tres Cerditos (‘The Three Little Pigs’) while sporting toy snouts was strangely poignant. Despite the show’s frequent moments of musical brilliance, overly long piano interludes between scenes occasionally broke the narrative momentum, and a more mystical atmosphere could have been achieved had Baiges and Enstad been playing from the audience’s entrance.
Utopia 126 was a great choice of venue. As a converted factory set in the heart of Poblenou, this unconventional theatre space would have had a slightly grimy and neglected feel were it not for its even less conventional set-up. Laid out in armchairs, sofas and blankets, the softly-lit hangar added a distinctly personal vibe to the production, making it feel intimate but not overly confined. This may have been my most comfortable experience ever as an audience member.
Fairytale characters certainly don’t lead fairytale lives in Teatro Calánime’s radical reimagination of our favourite childhood classics. With its twisted charm, Cuentos Cruentos successfully juggles entertainment with social criticism, and it can only be described as a rousing success. You won’t find nuanced drama or stately character development in this show, but its imaginative direction, stylised choreography and eccentric characters are enchanting. As a musical that truly turns the conventions of the genre on its head, parents and children alike will come away feeling educated, energised and inspired. And isn’t that what theatre is all about?
‘Cuentos Cruentos’ is currently being translated into English. For all the latest updates on Teatro Calánime’s theatre projects, click here.