Theatre Interview | 2020
"The actual education law seems to include sexual education as part of the curriculum but the practice differs from the theory and there is not a proper sex subject in every school which teaches us about safe sex practice, sexual pleasure, sexual consent…etc."
Gracia Rios Calderon
9th · 10th · 11th of February at 19:00 pm
I think she wants to say something. She may need to use some interesting objects (say no more), risky audience participation (wait, what?), and lots of humour (of course!). The Lessoninvestigates the source of Spain's sexual consent problems. Why does it exist? What systems allow it to continue? Why do they teach Pythagorean theorem, but nothing about... you know... sex?
Prepare yourself for the education of a lifetime as absurdity and dark humour collide in a solo clowning performance about power dynamics and poor sexual education in the Spanish community.
Hi Gracia, thanks for talking to TNC, how are things going?
Great, thanks! Quite hectic getting ready for this run of The Lesson at The Old Red Lion theatre!
What was the experience for you being part of the Maiden Speech Festival at Tristan Bates?
Since I saw the 2018 season I knew I wanted to be part of the Festival at some point. I loved the issues they addressed and the fact that they had such a multicultural panel of artists. For all these reasons, Maiden Speech seemed to be the perfect place to do The Lesson and actually, it was! The experience couldn’t have been better. I always felt really supported by Lexi Clare, the producer, the other artists and the rest of the team. It is a really collaborative environment.
What would you say the biggest lessons you took away from being part of this festival?
How important is to support each other, being flexible and capable of giving solutions and also how to ask for help if you need it. We all have the same objective. We wanted the Festival to work and reach as many people as possible. Therefore, the support between artists was essential.
How does it feel to be bringing The Lesson to Where Are We Now Festival at Old Red Lion this February?
It feels kind of unreal. Let me explain. I knew I wanted The Lesson to be part of Maiden Speech Festival and I was going to work hard to achieve that, but I never thought of having another opportunity to do it again in London. At least not this soon. So, yes, it feels unreal and amazing!
Furthermore, this time I am completely producing the show by myself which is quite challenging. During Maiden Speech Lexi was the one doing that hard job. So this time I am having more things in mind and I am learning lots of new skills, just as simple as how to design a nice flyer, edit videos and images etc…
"Sometimes even I do not know what is going to happen, which makes it really exciting for me as a performer."
Has The Lesson changed much since Maiden Speech Festival?
To be honest, not that much. I created it as part of my MA thesis at Mountview and I did redefine the show and made changes for Maiden Speech. This time I am doing certain changes, but I feel they are just small details to make the physical parts more interesting, sharper and cleaner.
Because it is a show with a lot of audience participation I know is going to be completely different every night. Sometimes even I do not know what is going to happen, which makes it really exciting for me as a performer. I like the fact that the audience is shaping the show with me every time I do it. So, even though this time I am not making big changes, I know the shows are going to be completely different to the ones I did during Maiden Speech. Let’s play and see what happens!
Will there be any nerves ahead of your shows run?
Always! They say that if you do not feel those nerves it is because you actually do not care very much about the show, right? Well, I do care. I care very much.
What I am not going to do is let those nerves get in the way of my enjoying the show, the audience and this opportunity at the Old Red Lion.
Can you tell me a little bit about The Lesson, what can we expect?
The Lesson is a serious clown solo performance. It seems to be contradictory, but it is the truth. It is a clown show that makes us reflect about the lack of sexual education in the Spanish community and its relationship with sexual harassment and abuse.
This is something quite tough to talk about so that is why I thought clowning would be perfect for it. Any issue is easier to address using comedy.
It is also quite a bold and risky show, mainly because of the kind of audience participation I use and the vulnerable situations I put my body into, but that is exactly what I wanted to create. Something that wouldn’t let people indifferent.
Be ready for dark humour, interesting props, profound moments and silliness, lots of silliness.
"I always loved physical theatre but I did not train properly in clowning until my thesis."
What made you want to create a show about sex education in Spain?
I had a bad sexual experience when I was younger and after talking to other female friends I realised how many of us have had bad experiences related to sexual harassment or sexual consent in our country.
Also, my desire to talk about this subject increased after a famous gang rape case that took place in Spain in 2016. The case is known as “The Wolfpack” (name the rapists used to called themselves in their WhatsApp group). It was a quiet polemic case and the focus fell on the victim’s behaviour rather than the rapists’s. Furthermore, the rapists did not seem to present any regrets because they thought that they haven’t done anything wrong.
This last thing kept me thinking… how is it possible that they did not know that what they were doing was wrong? I was not chasing for perpetrators but chasing for solutions. That is how I led into sex education. I think this situations are going to carry on happening unless we improve our sex education.
Why do you think sex education in Spain is so poor?
That is what I experimented during my high school and university years. Besides, having conversations and interviews with other Spanish people they seemed to have similar or even worse experiences related to sex education at school. No one seems to disagree about the fact that sex education in Spain is visibly lacking or that it could be better.
The actual education law seems to include sexual education as part of the curriculum but the practice differs from the theory and there is not a proper sex subject in every school which teaches us about safe sex practice, sexual pleasure, sexual consent…etc
Since creating the show and performing The Lesson what do you think it is about this show that has resonated with audience?
The message of not being quiet about something. It doesn’t mind how hard is to talk about a problem, you just have to be brave and open a discussion about it. Otherwise things are never going to change.
What have been the biggest challenges you've faced bringing The Lesson to the stage?
Definitely rehearsing the audience participation/interactions.
Of course it is impossible to predict how people is going to react during the show. The only way I had to actually try ideas and rehearse those moments was asking my friends to come to my rehearsals.
Thank god I have great friends and they were more than happy to do so.
Have you always had a passion for performance?
Yes. I started doing theatre in Spain since I was 13. And my parents say that when I was toddler I was making people laugh all the time, so probably I was born to be a clown.
What is it about clown theatre that interested you so much?
Being honest I really get into it this past year during my MA. I always loved physical theatre but I did not train properly in clowning until my thesis.
The topic I am dealing with is tough enough and clown gave me the silliness, innocence and comedy to make it lighter and more approachable to the audience and to myself as a performer.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
If a problem has a solution, why do you worry about it?
If a problem does not have a solution, why do you worry about it?
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from The Lesson?
I hope they feel they can speak out loud about any sexual consent problems they may have had and I hope people reconsider how to improve sex education in their own countries. I want them to talk openly about sexual consent.
And I hope they have a great time too!