Head of International Department, Elyse Dodgson's trip to Chile

There are no direct flights from London to Santiago de Chile so it took me exactly 20 hours to get there from London. It was my first visit and I kept wondering if it would be worth it to make this exhausting trip to the other side of the world for only seven days! I was invited by the Santiago a Mil Theatre Festival and the British Council to meet Chilean playwrights, see new work, and make contacts with theatres and institutions who might be potential partners for a long term play development project with Chilean writers.

This is how we begin things: I usually make the first “recce” and see what the possibilities are. This time I literally hit the ground running; With exciting meetings all day and at least two performances each night the possibilities seemed endless. It was truly a moment of feeling like I was at the right place at the right time. There were powerful examples of Chilean new writing all over the city. And the two plays everyone was talking about, two of the most original and provocative pieces of the Festival, were by two former Royal Court International Residency participants. Alejandro Moreno’s La Amante Fascista explores the life of a woman who loves a dictator and Guillermo Calderon’s double bill of Villa and Discurso deal with how the current generation in Chile come to terms with the past. Guillermo Calderon will direct readings of these two ground breaking plays at the Royal Court on 8 and 9 of March as part of our current International Playwrights Season.

I was curious as to why so much of the new writing I saw goes back to Chile’s recent past. Most of the theatre artists I met explained that as a new generation they need to keep returning to this subject which for them has never been resolved.

The highlight of my stay was a packed open meeting at the Gabriela Mistral Arts Centre where Guillermo Calderon and director Victor Carrasco interviewed me about the Royal Court and our long experience of working with playwrights. Victor Carrasco has just opened a beautiful new theatre in Santiago, Teatro de la Palabra (Theatre of the Word) which is to be a new writing theatre modelled on the Royal Court. This is something that will be quite unique in Latin America and when I met the team of this new project I thought of George Devine and his young directors in 1956 just embarking on their dream to discover new voices.

I had no doubt, as I started the long journey back to London, that this short time in Chile would lead to some exciting new work in the future. Watch this space for more news of the Chilean writers!

Elyse Dodgson
Associate Director, Head of International Department
February 2011