(*) Ewa Procter
Back in 2016, in the March edition of “The Umbrella”, I had the occasion of giving my readers a bird’s eye view on Brazilian author Nelson Rodrigues. At that time, I mentioned that he certainly deserves to be considered a modern classic among many other authors. In that article, I was reviewing one of the last plays he wrote, called “Anti-Nelson Rodrigues”. However, this time, still on Nelson Rodrigues I will tell you about “Os Sete Gatinhos”, a play that I recently saw on its opening night and that is now celebrating its sixtieth anniversary!
As with many other plays by Nelson Rodrigues, there have been a number of different productions of this play in the past. Back in 1980, it was also turned into a full-length film. Several of Nelson Rodrigues’ plays are staged every year by different companies and groups all over Brazil, and some have already been translated into French and German. This is because, all things considered, their themes are universal. They deal very much with family issues, even if one would certainly not like to be a member of some of these families! I quote Anthony Hope (Anthony Hope Hawkins) (1863-1933) when he wrote: “Good families are generally worse than any others”.
The story of “Os Sete Gatinhos” deals with Noronha, a low middle-class civil servant who lives with his wife, nicknamed “Gorda”, and their four older daughters. All the girls save money for the trousseau of their beloved virginal little sister, called Silene, Noronha’s and Gorda’s youngest daughter. However, Silene is expelled from boarding school, accused of having had a fit of rage and killing a pregnant cat in labor, together with her seven newly born kittens. This episode is the trigger for revealing the most sordid family secrets.
Although I am a cat person, and an animal lover in general, and this killing of cat and kittens has always bothered me as a theme, I must admit that, even if it is not my favorite one, I have always considered “Os Sete Gatinhos” as one of Rodrigues’ best plays.
In this production, the cast of eleven actors and actresses play with enthusiasm their different roles, under the direction of Bruce Gomlevsky (who also directed the Rio de Janeiro version of “Anti-Nelson”). And they certainly play in the style the play was written, without any modernizing of the language and in tune with Nelson Rodrigues’ way of presenting the different characters. I do not want to stress the performance of this or that actor or actress, because I feel they work in a way of an ensemble, something that the play requires.
This time, coincidence or not, “Os Sete Gatinhos” by Nelson Rodrigues is presented at the… Teatro da Caixa Nelson Rodrigues. This theater has been closed for a few years, in order to go through some major refurbishment, and has recently re-opened. It is one of the two theaters in Rio de Janeiro that belong to the Caixa Cultural; it is located downtown on Av. República do Chile, 230. As the Teatro do BNH, it hosted many interesting plays, such as Peter Shaffer’s “Equus”, which had its Brazilian première there. The Caixa Cultural also has other theaters in other Brazilian cities, such as São Paulo, Curitiba, Salvador and Brasília. And this “new theater”, if one can call it that, has become a very comfortable one. Unfortunately, however, it is not too near public transport. I took a cab on my way to the performance, and then walked to the Carioca metro station after it finished. However, there are taxis awaiting spectators when the play is over.
“Os Sete Gatinhos” opened on the 14th of September, and will run until the 29th of October. Performances take place on Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 P.M., Saturdays at 7:00 P.M., and Sundays at 6:00 P.M. Price of tickets is R$ 30,00 (thirty Reais) and R$ 40,00 (forty Reais), depending on where your seat is located. Censorship is for young people under the age of sixteen. The play lasts for ninety minutes.
So, if you have never seen a Nelson Rodrigues play, try to see this one. It would be worth your while to acquaint yourselves with a dramatist who was also a journalist, a novelist, and a famous character during his entire lifetime.
(*) Ewa Procter is a writer and a theater translator,
and Chair of the Instituto Cultural Chiquinha Gonzaga