La Cubana has been one of the most popular theatre companies in Barcelona for decades. In February, they premiered the play ‘Adeu Arturo’ at the Coliseum theatre. It is a show that originally debuted as ’Adiós Arturo’ in May 2018 at Valencia’s Olympia theatre, but this updated version features many of the characters speaking in Catalan. (Although a Catalan company, La Cubana’s inclusion of so many actors from around Spain and abroad often means the Catalan language is a rarity in their shows).
This adaptation took the company two and a half months, a significant time considering that large-format commercial productions are usually up and running from scratch in that time. However, La Cubana prefer to take their time, and in fact it took them four months to create, rehearse and premiere ’Adiós Arturo’ in the first place.
But who is Arturo and what is the show about? About death and how this character (both histrionic and fictitious) has demanded he be buried. Since his wishes prevent the funeral taking place in a spiritual venue, the people of La Cubana offer to officiate the ceremony at the Coliseum theatre and make good on Arturo’s epitaph: “Do not add years to life; add life to your years”.
The revamped show arrives in Barcelona sixteen months later than expected. The closure of theatres due to health restrictions has forced larger venues in particular to reschedule to make their programmes fit a shortened season. No one should rely on ‘Adeu Arturo’ extending its run this year, no matter how popular the show turns out to be. Yet to accommodate the maximum number of people, there is a double session on Saturdays and a morning session on Sundays.
Eleven actors (Xavi Tena, Filomena Martorell, David Ramírez, Annabel Totusaus, Núria Benet, Àlex González, Montse Amat, Toni Sans, Virgínia Melgar, Miquel Arnau and Víctor Gómez) playing some 80 characters take part in the show, which includes considerable participation from the audience, albeit respecting the health measures. Conceived and directed by Jordi Milán, the show even includes a guest of honour, the parrot Ernesto, who Milán says was a gift from Fidel Castro to the Arturo of the title.
As for the plot, Arturo Cirera Mompou recently died in his flat in Barcelona on Rambla de Catalunya at the age of 101. The rear of his apartment backs onto the Coliseum theatre. The artistic figure of Arturo lived through all the major stages of the 20th century and, according to the fanciful obituary La Cubana released prior to the premiere, Arturo’s artistic versatility allowed him to extract a creation from each of these stages.
Despite the months of enforced shutdown of theatres due to the pandemic, ’Adiós Arturo’ was seen in 30 cities in Spain before it arrived in Barcelona, with 480 performances being seen by over 300,000 people. ’Adeu Arturo’ is not a musical, although as to be expected from such exuberant and colourful performers as those of La Cubana, there is plenty of singing and dancing throughout the show, which has audiences rocking in their seats.
‘40+1’, at Palau Robert
La Cubana’s ingenuity with scenery and costumes was recently on show in the exhibition La Cubana. Un viatge del no-res al 2021, 40+1 anys. Hosted at the Miramar Cultural Centre in Sitges, it ran for almost seven months and got over 20,000 visits. In his presentation of ’Adeu Arturo’, Milan mentioned the possibility of the exhibition moving to Barcelona’s Palau Robert venue in 2023.
La Cubana’s many homes in Barcelona
Although La Cubana began performing on the street, their successes in Barcelona have all come in the theatre. Their first theatre run was at the Romea with an unusual version of ’The Tempest’ in 1986. Then in 1989, they went to the Mercat de les Flors, which advanced them the money to buy the costumes for what was to become one of their biggest hits, ’Cómeme el coco, negro’ (1988). Later, they performed at the Victòria theatre and then the Club Capitol.
The Mercat de les Flors welcomed them back in 1992 with ’Marathon Dancing’. However, since ’Cegada de amor’ a year later, they have generally performed in venues of the Balañá entertainment group, with the exception of ’Equipatge per al 2000’, which was hosted at the CCCB. In 2001, La Cubana were at the Tivoli theatre with ’Una Nit d’Òpera’, and then went across the street to the Teatre Novedades in 2003 with ’Mamá, quiero ser famoso’. It was here that the company celebrated 25 years. In 2007, they were in the Coliseum theatre for the re-run of ’Cómeme el coco, negro’, where they also finished the 2008 season with their Homenatge al Paral·lel.
They were back in the Tivoli in 2012 for ’Campanades de boda’, and then did not reappear with a major theatre production until 2016, with the musical ’Gente Bien’.