Out of the Wings

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Carícies (1991), Sergi Belbel i Coslado

English title: Caresses
Date written: 1991
First production date: 1992

A violent, moving and strikingly modern picture of human relationships.


Already translated into Portuguese, German and French, Caresses is a Catalan drama for the 1990s and beyond—violent, sexual, perverse and unequivocally modern. Structured on Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, each of the 'ten scenes and an epilogue' brings a pair of characters together. The following scene includes one of the characters of the previous episode. This technique engages the audience's attention, for the ties between the two characters are at first unclear. Seeing one of them in a different light in the subsequent scene provides another perspective. The first encounter of the play sets the tone for the reciprocal aggression of the rest of the text. A young man tells a young woman that he has the feeling that it is as if they no longer have anything to say to each other. She claims the contrary. Then he starts hitting her. She asks what he wants for dinner and, while she describes the proposed salad, knees him in the groin and then kicks him in the face. Following his gasps of pain, she asks: 'Maybe you want to tell me something?' He utters a strangled 'Mmm . . . yes.. .' She then retorts: 'You see? You see how you've still got something to say to me?' None of the scenes involves quite this extent of black humour, but all of them present human relationships as problematic and confused. There is a constant conflict between generations. A daughter tells her mother that she should have aborted. This may sound cruel, but in the next scene, the mother tells an old woman that she hated her 'disgusting' daughter, because she prevented her from dancing. Everybody in the play seems alienated and alone, whether it is through sexual infidelity or poverty. At one moment, an old tramp looking for food in a rubbish container protests to a little boy who calls him an animal: 'I am a man I am a man I am a man.' These emotional states are set against a background of drugs, sex and the coarsest aspects of popular culture. The same little boy—in a street Catalan never heard before on the stage—talks of pop groups called Social Shit, Dirty Sheets and Fucking My Mother. One scene culminates in fellatio. Although these elements could categorize Caresses as a play designed merely to shock audiences, Belbel is too young to be thoughtlessly taking advantage of the breath of freedom which occurred immediately after the death of Franco when all sorts of excesses took place in Barcelona. He is instead painting a picture of contemporary society and indicating ways of portraying it in personal terms.

Critical response

A polemical play, which nevertheless has had long runs in Spain, Latin America, France and Germany.

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Entry submitted by John_London on 22 February 2011 and last updated by Gwynneth Dowling on 23 February 2011

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