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The climax of their show was to have been a skit ridiculing the Republican flag, but Carmela uses it to make a heroic - and fatal - gesture of solidarity with the condemned prisoners.
Despite not being a fluent Spanish speaker he freely admits to using a literal translation, a French translation and Spanish and French dictionaries , Trafford succeeds brilliantly.
The ear quickly becomes attuned to picking up his clever but unobtrusive use of alliteration and internal rhymes, yet the dialogue never sounds contrived or self-consciously "poetic" - quite an achievement in a work so strongly influenced by the work of Samuel Beckett and the Latin American tradition of magic realism. When the play begins Carmela is already dead and the International Brigade prisoners have been shot and buried in a mass grave.
She describes it as a sort of annexe to Purgatory - a drab, disorganised place whose inhabitants eat tasteless food whilst waiting interminably for further instructions. The couple struggle to present an unrehearsed show with no props, no scenery, erratic lighting and a script written on scraps on paper. And although we already know how the evening will end it still comes as a shocking mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous: as Carmela holds the Republican flag aloft, Paulito frantically tries to distract the fascist top brass by demonstrating an unconventional talent one he shares with the legendary Le Petomane.
As well as giving a wonderfully funny and moving performance she also has a thrilling singing voice which is used to the full in several musical numbers. Robert Pickavance gives a tour de force performance as the harassed Paulino, in comparison with whom Basil Fawlty is positively laid-back.
The couple perform their flamenco routine with real panache and their interaction, both "on-stage" and behind the scenes, has the easy familiarity born of long experience.
Ay Carmela! Tour ends 25th November.
The film was selected as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards , but was not accepted as a nominee. Amidst the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, they are in the town of Montejo , entertaining republican troops with their variety show. They are survivors who are motivated, not exactly by patriotism, but by a desire for self-preservation. Their show consists of four acts. It begins with Carmela singing and dancing a traditional song.
¡Ay, Carmela! | José Sanchis Sinisterra [Bajar ePub]