Professionalism on stage

{mosimage}Juan
Echanove
is one of the most popular Spanish actors in the last twenty years. Although
known by his sweet and kind roles, Echanove adventures into difficult and
challenging performances like his role in Calixto Bieito’s adaptation to
theater of the controversial novel by Michel Houellebecq, Platform, which was just presented during Helsinki Festival.

 

Platform is
an uncomfortable play. It talks openly about pornography, sex tourism,
terrorism and the differences between the rich Western world and the developing
countries. The three representations in Helsinki are the last ones of a long
year with 200 performances since its premiere in the Edinburgh Festival where the
Spanish actor was honored with the Herald Angel award. Echanove speaks clearly
and frankly. He admits that he is exhausted after so many performances,
although willing to go once more on stage and fight with the demanding role of
Michel. Right after speaking to FREE! Echanove will start warming up his body
and his voice

Why did you
choose to play the role of Michel?

My decision
was completely based on my confidence in Calixto Bieito, our director. I
couldn’t imagine that there could be a play based on Michel Houellebecq’s novel, but if
Bieito was able to see a great show on it, it was good to trust on him.
Probably I wouldn’t have accepted to play this role if Bieito wouldn’t have
been involved.

It is one
of your most challenging works.

The text of
this play is very dangerous. It is very intimidating. It burns. It is a bomb.
In a very precise manner, it tells the lowest qualities of modern Western
civilization, of a nowadays individual from good old Europe. The play shows
normal people of my age, 45-50 years old and their expectations and emotions.
Indeed, it is very challenging and complicated to be for two hours such a
character, with those low human qualities and under the influence of alcohol
and pills.

How did you
create this character?

I went to
Barcelona for six weeks and lived alone in an apartment. I didn’t do anything
else but rehearsals in the evenings and building the character in the mornings.
I tried to make the complex psychology of Michel real, to find out how the
feelings of such a person would be, creating something real beyond the literary
work of Houellebecq. I wanted to know how a person of those feelings and characteristics
would be for real.

Did you do
anything special?

I did the
usual work when preparing a role. There was a lot of background documentation. I
did some research on the main issues that Michel Houellebecq addresses with his
thinking and criticism about society. The issues are the power of money over
poverty, terrorism and pornography and sex tourism.

Is it
easier for you to play a character that it’s so different from you?

No, it’s
the same. Acting is a job. A friend of mine says that being an actor is either
very easy or impossible. With this performance I learned to be shameless of many
things, for example things related to sex. It is not easy to talk about your
father’s dead while looking at a screen showing a double penetration. This is a
very tough role. Every performance I lose two or three kilos and it’s not
because of its physical intensity, it’s because the emotional intensity. But
there must be a good distance between the character and the actor. Sometimes
actors say that they are so identified with the character, that they own it.
That’s bullshit. My job is wonderful, but it is also tremendously complicated.
It’s a job like a pianist or violinist. All my life and education have been
devoted to acting. It’s natural for me to go on stage.

This is a
high point in your career.

It’s funny
because a role like Michel, who has nothing to do with me, marks a turning
point in my life and in my career. It’s a point of growing up. Doing
performances like Plataforma, one realizes that it’s not worthy to go on stage
if there is not a real motivation, if it’s not risky and meaningful.

Do you
think you could have played this part earlier in your career?

Absolutely
not. This was the right time. I think I would not accept if I had been called
next month. But as I said before, Calixto played a very important role. He
called me and I accepted even before knowing what was the play we were going to
do. He’s one of the best contemporary directors in European theater. If you are
an actor, you must be at his command at least once.

How is
working with Calixto?

He is a
sweet guy, very sincere and a very practical person. I like those qualities. He
is honest. He knows the audience; he knows what the audience looks at and why. He’s
unique.