Viva Portugal: Two Stories From The Time Of Salazar

Susannah Finzi and Armando Nascimento Rosa
Modern Culture
Omnibus Theatre, London

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Juan Echenique as Salazar and Craig Talbot as the priest in A Reputation Credit: Victor Pedrassoni
Juan Echenique as Salazar, Fernanda Mandagará as Teresa and Craig Talbot as the priest in A Reputation Credit: Victor Pedrassoni

With European countries again stomping to the political far right, it is a good idea to recall the last time the continent had that bright solution to its problems. Understandably, Hitler and the Nazi rampage tends to dominate UK nightmares, but there were other far-right monsters inflicting misery and death across Europe.

The ruthless dictatorship of Portugal by António de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1932 to 1968, is the linking thread running through two plays under the title of Viva Portugal.

Armando Nascimento Rosa’s Departure—The Woman Without Fear lets us glimpse how Salazar dealt with opponents through a focus on Arajaryr Campos, the secretary and partner of Humberto Delgado, a one-time army general critical of Salazar.

Although this piece is tilted towards the voices of Arajaryr (Juliana Pflaumer) and her daughter Rosangela Castro (Kyara Mensie), the odd structure of the story distances the content and the characters.

It opens with a brief scene of three actors chatting about playing the central characters. It ends the story with two different actors dressed in boiler suits giving us an update on the death of Salazar and the Carnation Revolution. Between these bookends, we hear how, according to Rosangela’s dad, her mum had run off with a lover when she was only seven. The three actors give us a fuller account of the political rebellion, exile and assassination of Arajaryr and Humberto.

Although it is a confident performance of an important story, it is described rather than shown, with the actors in the role of actors, having no drama or obvious purpose, and the characters having little depth.

A Reputation by Susannah Finzi takes us to a dining room where a priest (Craig Talbot) is waiting for his host ,Salazar (Juan Echenique), who wants to talk to him about something. Salazar arrives like a more arrogant version of Basil Fawlty with an inane smile on his face.

It’s the closing phase of his rule, and the dictator is concerned about his legacy being tarnished by a gift he received from Hitler, whom he describes as an “uneducated upstart.”

However, what concerns him is not the fact that the gift is a stolen work of art or that it links him to Hitler but the sexual nature of what is depicted in the painting. His secret police may torture and murder people under his instructions, but there must be no suspicion that this religious dictator harboured such a picture.

It’s a small story of a pompous, shallow poser. Yet he held the lives of millions in his hands, and at one point in the evening we see a film clip reproducing the 2007 television poll which found 41 per cent voted Salazar “the greatest ever Portuguese figure”.

The story of the dangerous far right in Portugal is not yet over.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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