What impelled you to create Catarina and the Beauty of Killing Fascists?

The play emerged from questions posed by the rise of far-right populist movements around the world, especially in Portugal. Confronted with this situation, I wanted to address the paradox of tolerance: do we have to tolerate the forces of intolerance? This philosophical paradox that arose in the 20th century is at the heart of the show. It tells the story of a family facing this dilemma: with democracy currently under threat, can we afford to keep playing by the rules, or should we let our hands get dirty?


The entire show is really based on that question. How does intellectual debate work in the theatre, and in your view, can it bring about social or political change?

Catarina and the Beauty of Killing Fascists presents a rather Brechtian debate opposing two visions. The characters stick to their initial positions throughout the show, and in my view, that’s how it should be in a dialectical work. Observing Antigone and Creon engage in heated debate without changing their opinions teaches us something about life. Their stubbornness gives us, the silent audience, the possibility of judging what is right and what is not, to analyze the pros and cons of each argument without necessarily taking sides. In this show, we push the debate very far and exhaust all the possibilities in terms of persuading people to accept one view or another. Despite that, after each performance, spectators feel the need to continue the discussion. Everyone needs to figure it out for themselves, to put it into their own words, and to listen to the words of others. That doesn’t mean their opinion will change dramatically, but I’ve seen many people come to doubt beliefs they had held their whole lives. Suddenly, because of a play, they’re questioning themselves.

I don’t think theatre can be a vehicle for political action. Theatre is sometimes fuelled by politics and no doubt has an influence on it, but it’s fundamentally different and doesn’t work according to the same rules. The world of fiction, in which I still believe as a theatre artist, allows certain things that aren’t possible in politics. Like this completely absurd and truly awful question, “Should the fascist be killed or not?” Only the theater can create a context in which that question exists. And the fact of posing it gives us a different way to reflect on society. The point of the play is not to defend my viewpoint or that of the characters. It’s to formulate a question for which theater offers tools that are not available in journalism or politics, for example.


Your show takes place in the future but highlights elements that are typically associated with the past: family tradition, the land, history. Do you see a contradiction there?

No, not at all. I think one thing that’s very important for interpreting what is currently happening in Europe’s political landscape is understanding how it is similar to and different from the past.  When I use the word “fascist” in the title, I’m aware that I’m using the wrong term. Fascism is a historical movement defined by certain specific characteristics, and most of today’s far-right parties do not fit that definition perfectly. But even if it’s not technically accurate, I used the word because it reawakens a sense of danger that we sometimes seem to forget. And I didn’t want people to forget that there is a link between the fascism of the previous century and the current threat.


Why did you choose to set the play in the near future, in 2028?

My dramaturgical strategy was to set the story in a future time that was determined based on the political calendar. In 2020, when we created the show, Portugal held elections, and for the first time since the end of the fascist dictatorship in 1974, a far-right candidate was elected to parliament. My reasoning was as follows: if elections take place again in four years and then four years after that, it’s mathematically possible that in 2028, the radical right would win. In the end, following early legislative elections in January 2022, 12 MPs from that party have now been elected. In barely three years, the far-right became the third-biggest power in the country. The play is therefore less dystopian in 2024 than it was four years ago.


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