The actor Juan Diego (Bermujos, Sevilla,
1942) performed JosÚ Sanchis Sinisterras play El lector por horas (The Reader by
Hours) in the little theatre at the National Theatre of Catalonia from 21 January to 14
"(...) Theres been a qualitative leap forward in all Spanish
cities in terms of infrastructure. They have better facilities; yet theyre sadder,
more dehumanized." When he looks back, in Barcelona or any other city, Juan Diego
gets nostalgic about the people who used to live there. Between his arrival at the
Estaciˇ de Franša more than thirty years ago and his rendering of El lector por horas at
the National Theatre of Catalonia, Diego has known three Barcelonas.
(...) "It may sound silly, but I was really excited to see the
monument to Columbus. One of the first bits of sight-seeing I did was to go up
Columbus." With more in his head than in his suitcase, Juan Diego first set foot in
Barcelona at the Estaciˇ de Franša, in 1963. He had come to perform a play by William
Morris (...), and he booked in at the Pensiˇn Toledano in Rambla Catalunya.
They were hard times to start up in the profession: "My wage was
225 pesetas and the boss didnt pay up; we were hard pushed to get by." But they
were also tinged with an inevitable Bohemian flavour. There were nights out in the Gothic
Quarter and "the hotspots, the cabarets, the dancehalls."
(...) In the 1969-70 season, Juan Diego, Julia Pe˝a and Emma Cohen put
on La noche de los asesinos (The Night of the Assassins) by the Cuban playwright JosÚ
Triana in the now closed Capsa Theatre. It was "a very hard-hitting, bold text, a
Casa de las AmÚricas prizewinner, and we werent allowed to put it on in
Madrid." It was the early seventies and the city was alive with avant-garde theatre
and movements opposing the dictatorship. At that time, the actor was a member of the
Communist Party of Spain. "That Barcelona was dear to me. There were the contacts
with people in the PSUC, and a bit later on, with the Assembly of Catalonia. We met to
conspire, and to organize and build political strategies to smash Francoism."
(...) Years later, this communist anti-Francoist militant became the
first actor to play General Franco, in Jaime Caminos 1986 film Dragon Rapide.
After a long break of two decades, Juan Diego landed right back in
mid-nineties Barcelona with a play based on texts by Bukowski, No hay camino al paraÝso,
nena (Theres No Road to Paradise, Baby), at the Condal, and now with El lector por
horas, the first play in Spanish to be shown at the National Theatre of Catalonia. The
actor explains: "La noche de los asesinos showed me something that Ive seen
confirmed by this play by Sanchis Sinisterra: in Barcelona theres a very broad
theatre-going public thats highly receptive to messages with new forms and content