Out of the Wings

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El triciclo (1952-1953), Fernando Arrabal

English title: The Tricycle
Notable variations on Spanish title: Los hombres del triciclo
Date written: from 1952 to 1953
First publication date: 1958
First production date: January 1958
Keywords: violence > murder, love > friendship, society > poverty
Genre and type: magic realism, absurdist

Times are hard for the characters in The Tricycle. The only thing they can depend on is their trusty tricycle. But when they risk losing that, murder seems the only option left.


El triciclo (The Tricycle) is a strangely light-hearted tale of poverty and murder. Two men commit a thoughtless crime, all in the hope of keeping their beloved tricycle.

At the start of the play, Apal sits on a bench by a river. It is evening, and he is tired. His friend Climando arrives on a rickety old tricycle. Climando has spent the day earning money by giving children rides on the tricycle. He is exhausted, and it is now Apal’s turn to take the tricycle out to earn money. But Apal is too tired, much to Climando’s annoyance. If they do not make enough money, they will not be able to pay the next instalment on the tricycle and it will be taken off them. But Apal is too sleepy to worry about this, and dozes off, just as the Old Man with the Flute Arrives. He has also had a tiring day, and starts arguing with Climando over which of them has had the worst day. It is clear that Climando and the Old Man have a rather fraught relationship in general, and as usual their conversation ends up in a childish argument. Eventually, having lost the nonsensical argument, the Old Man leaves.

After a while, Apal wakes up. He is rather downhearted about life, and he and Climando talk about how poor they are. They console themselves with the thought that at least they still have their tricycle. Feeling slightly better, Apal dozes off once again. As the night draws on, Mita arrives. She is a friend of both Apal and Climando and, like them, has very little money. Mita is also feeling despondent about life and wonders if she should commit suicide. Climando thinks that this might be a good idea, if it would make her feel better. In the meantime, he lets her have a ride on the tricycle to cheer her up. When Mita returns, she tells Climando that she has attracted the attention of the mysterious Man with the Banknotes. She and Climando start thinking about how they might use some of the Man’s banknotes, were they to get hold of them. Mita could buy some food and Climando could pay the latest instalment on the tricycle. They wake Apal up to help them formulate a plan to get the Man’s money. For Apal, the solution is easy. They just need to kill the Man. The other two are initially hesitant, but the idea of all those banknotes is just too appealing. And so, while Apal and Climando hide, Mita uses her feminine charms to tempt the Man to come closer.

The stage goes dark, and when the lights go up again it is the next morning. The bench by the river is now covered in blood. As usual, Apal is asleep, only briefly woken by the Old Man who is surprised at all the blood. The Old Man assumes it is the blood of some animal and leaves. Meanwhile, Mita and Climando return to the bench. They are both in much brighter spirits, not least because the tricycle has been paid off. But the Old Man returns with the ominous news that there are a lot of police officers about, looking for Climando and Apal in particular. Apal remains asleep, but Climando and Mita are genuinely surprised at this news. Climando tries to remember what he might have done, but it keeps slipping his mind. At a loss, he wakes Apal, who assumes it must be because of the man they murdered. Once again, Climando is surprised, since it is the first time he has killed anyone and, in any case, he did not do it out of spite. The Old Man and Mita tell Climando that he really should have got the murder authorised by the police beforehand.

Eventually, a policeman arrives. He makes nonsensical sounds, although it is clear that Apal and Climando are in trouble. And indeed, the Old Man soon returns to tell them that they will both be arrested and killed, just as soon as the police chief arrives. When the chief turns up, Apal and Climando are handcuffed. Climando gives Mita his boots and the Old Man his tricycle. After some negotiation, Mita also secures herself Apal’s jacket. Climando and Apal stand shivering on stage, cold and scared, before being led away to their deaths. Mita and the Old Man, however, are more interested in their new belongings: the boots, the jacket and, of course, the tricycle.

Critical response

In her introduction to the play, Zoraida Carandell notes that El triciclo features language games and absurd conversations that are reminiscent of those found in the works of Samuel Beckett. However, she goes on to point out that, while some might think that Arrabal owes a debt to Beckett, in fact he wrote this play between 1952 and 1953 – before he was even aware of Beckett’s theatre (Carandell 2004: 244). The characters, and Apal and Climando in particular, are typical of the strange and often superficial characters that feature throughout Arrabal’s work. They are aptly described by one academic as ‘evil yet innocent murderers’ (Lamont 1964: 391).

  • Carandell, Zoraida. 2004. ‘Los hombres del triciclo de Fernando Arrabal’. In Historia y antología del teatro español de posguerra (1956-1960), vol. IV, eds. Víctor García Ruiz and G. Torres Nebrera, pp. 243-50 (in Spanish)

  • Lamont, Rosette C. 1964. ‘The Nouvelle Vague in French Theatre’, The Massachusetts Review, 5.2, 381-96

Further information

The play was originally called Los hombres del triciclo (The Tricycle Men) but was subsequently shortened to El triciclo.

  • Arrabal, Fernando. 1965. El triciclo. Madrid, Biblioteca Teatral Yorick

  • Arrabal, Fernando. 1977. Pic-Nic, El triciclo, El laberinto. Madrid, Cátedra

  • Arrabal, Fernando. 2004. Los hombres del triciclo. In Historia y antología del teatro español de posguerra (1956-1960), vol. IV, eds. Víctor García Ruiz and G. Torres Nebrera, pp. 251-97

  • Arrabal, Fernando. 2006. Pic-Nic, El triciclo, El laberinto, ed. Ángel Berenguer. Madrid, Cátedra

Information about the editions

El triciclo was probably first published in French, in 1958 by Julliard Press.

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 25 March 2011.

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