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In Treasure Island, playing at The National Theatre, Angela de Castro plays Israel Manos
a atriz Ângela de Castro vive Israel Manos. Foto: Johan Fersson

Now playing in Treasure Island that recently opened at The National Theatre, actress and theatre clown Angela de Castro accepted Eleven Culture’s invitation for a chat in the theatre’s cafe. In a long conversation, she tells a little of her journey and reveals the inside story of a successful career of a clown star in the UK. De Castro has toured the world performing in 34 countries and has participated in films such as "Light In Darkness," "Dandy Dust" and "Deviant Beauty". She is also a leading theatre practitioner, director and a clown teacher and the founder of the Contemporary Clowning Projects (CCP). Her performances and methodology have been awarded in the UK and abroad including an International Fellowship from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama for her contribution to the art of clowning.

  • Treasure Island is playing in The National Theatre until the 8th of April 2015. For more information and to tickes visit National theatre's  official website.

After receiving a honourable mention from the Brazilian Union of Writers in her adolescence, the Rio de Janeiro bourn teenager - by chance (a recurrent word in her life) - while accompanying a friend to an audition, ends up being invited to take the audition and "unintentionally" enters the theatre world professionally. At 21 and in love, she moves to Sao Paulo and ends up working with renowned directors such as Antunes Filho, with whom she debuts the acclaimed theatrical production "Macunaíma", remaining in the show for four years. On tour with "Macunaíma" through Europe, De Castro encounters for the first time the work of the clown and finds her true artistic path.

Back in Brazil and searching for this ‘new theatre form’, she decides to open her own theatre and circus company with José Lavigne (former director of the successful Brazilian TV show “Casseta e Planeta”) “- where she produced, performed and won several awards. De Castro then returns to Europe touring with a new production of her company and aware that she hadn’t properly managed to develop the clown work in Brazil, she decides to take a workshop in London. This was the beginning of her international career and her permanent residency in the UK.  

The cast of Treasure Island during rehearsal: Alexandra Maher, Claire-Louise Cordwell, Lena Kaur, Heather Dutton,
Raj Bajaj, Patsy Ferran, Angela De Castro, Ben Thompson and Jonathan Livingstone. Foto by Johan Persson

>> Interview: 

Thais Mennsitieri – From a promising young writer you became a stage actress, how did that happen?
Angela de Castro - I had no intention of becoming an actress. My business was writing and becoming a poet. So much so that I went to the university of literature, but only attended half a year. I was accompanying a friend to an audition for a professional theatre piece, I was sitting there waiting for her when the director came and invited me to take the test because he needed an even number of actors… I laughed so much, it was something about animals… I ended up landing the part and my friend didn’t. It was the end of that friendship and the beginning of my career (laughs). The director was Luiz Mendonça, who is a director of popular theatre, a guy from the Northeast of Brazil, super cool. At the time, he had the Arena Theatre in Rio de Janeiro.

Thais - Thais – Why did you swap Rio de Janeiro for São Paulo?
Angela – My life and my profession, it was all by chance. Actually I didn’t really move to São Paulo because of theatre, I went because I fell in love and went to live with that person. I didn’t know anyone there, actually I knew 2 people: Denise Stoklos and Claudia de Castro – who isn’t related to me but is also an actress. One day I was walking on the streets when by chance I bumped into the choreographer of the animal piece I did in Rio and he told me that Mendonça was in town and looking for the cast of his new pastoral show. I went and that is how I started working in São Paulo.  

Thais – And then the theatre of São Paulo opened it’s doors for you….
Angela – I meet many actors from São Paulo in that show and I became good friends with one of them, Lizete Negreiros. She told me of an audition for a show about the life of Noel Rosa in the Sesi Theatre and invited me to go with her. I asked what it was about and she said it was to compose the ballet cast (laughter). I said: ‘look at us, we’re not ballerinas!’ (laughter) But she insisted, we went and we landed the part, it was great. I did this show for a full year.  

Thais – And how did your partnership with Antunes Filho begin?
Angela - In this cast I met Anali Prestes who told me: ‘Antunes will like you’. I didn’t understand why because I was doing such a small part in that piece but she insisted: ‘go there, he is working on this new show for the syndicate’. He had just returned form Europe and wanted to research physical theatre, do something new and used the syndicate, which produced many workshops every year, as a platform to try out this new thing.

Thais – You worked in “Macunaíma” for 4 years, why did you decide to leave the show?
Angela – When I started on “Macunaíma” I already had a few years of professional career, my colleagues were all doing better parts, lead parts while I was more interested in parts that didn’t speak much, parts with a possibility of creating their own narrative and that started to bother me… but why do I only like to do small parts and have this passion for details? Then when we were touring in Europe with “Macunaíma”, I went to a festival and we were all there, Peter Brook, Pina Bausch, but every one was talking about this show in the alternative circuit and I went to see it. It was a one man show, two chairs and a little packaged and the entire show was passing this packaged from one chair to the other trying to find the best place for it. Everyone was so thrilled and I was like: ‘gosh what is this? I never saw this kind of theatre before’ and this guy said to me: ‘this is clowning’. It was when it hit me and I said: ‘this is what I am!’ I’m not strange, I’m not weird… I’m this! Then I went back to Brazil, left Macunaíma and started this research.

Thais – Was it during this research that you founded your company with José Lavigne?

Angela – Yes but it wasn’t the clown work, no one knew what was that in Brazil, they though I was crazy. Then I founded a theatre and circus company with José Lavigne, we produced 2 shows, it was a huge success but it still wasn’t clown.

Macunaima: Cacá Carvalho, Deivi Rose, Ângela de Castro, Mirthes Mesquita, Isa Kopelman,
Salma Buzzar e Theodora Ribeiro. Foto: Ruth Toledo (Acervo Idart/Centro Cultural São Paulo) 

Thais – When you were working with José Lavigne you received an invitation to tour your show in Europe. Was it during that period that the clown entered your professional life?
Angela – I only started working with clown in 1986, six years after I saw the art of clowning during my first trip to Europe. When I came back the second time, I decided to pass by London to visit a friend of mine who is a doctor, nothing related to theatre but she told me: ‘look, you know this clown thing that you keep talking about? There is a clown workshop here in London. Why don’t you stay here with me and do this course? I can help you!’ So I talked to Lavigne and he said: ”stay, you have always wanted this.’ So I stayed…

Thais - And how did your career begin in the UK?
Ângela -Angela – I ended up staying longer to do the advanced part of the workshop, I stayed six months. When I was going to return to Brazil they called me to do an audition. I went out of curiosity, just to see what was an audition like here in the UK, I wasn’t particularly keen on doing the show, but I landed the part. They offered me a 4 year contract with a theatre and circus company with actors and clowns from Lecoq.

The theatre clown is based on a line of thought and not so much on the sake of being funny, which is great also don’t get me wrong,
but it’s another style.” 

Thais – You work with the theatre clown, is there any difference with the clown form the street and the circus?
Angela – It’s a polemic issue and I want to make it very clear that there is no comparison, there isn’t a worse or better, it is purely a matter of style. The street clown has a more popular appeal, it’s quicker, the circus clown has a developed technique, it has acrobatics, the slap-stick and so on. The theatre clown is based on a line of thought and not so much on the sake of being funny, which is great also don’t get me wrong, but it’s another style.  

Thais – How did you end up working for the National Theatre’s new show Treasure island?
Angela – It was also by chance. I was going to direct a Brazilian actress in France and then give a workshop in São Paulo when I received a call form the casting director of the National Theatre, which by chance I already knew, and she asked me if I was available so I told her: ‘maybe, why?’ Then she said: ‘do you want to come here and play a character that speaks Spanish?’ Well, I speak a cheeky mixture of Spanish and Portuguese so I went! I discovered that I had already worked with Bryony Lavery who did the adaptation, she wrote a play for me called “My Life is Like a Yo-yo’ and I also knew the director, so I did the table reading and they called me.

"One of my dreams was to work at the National Theatre. This show is a super production of the National, a production for all ages"

Thais – Tell me a little bit about this show.
Angela – I have many dreams and I am very blessed that I manage to fulfill all of them. One of my dreams was to work at the National Theatre. This show is a super production of the National, a production for all ages, what they call family show and they do it every year, this year it’s Treasure Island.

Watch  the trailer of "Treasure Island":

Thais – And do you play a small character, as you like it?

Angela - Yes! It’s a very small character and I speak Portuguese! I get super confused because the English language is now so spontaneous that sometimes I speak English thinking I am speaking Portuguese (laughter). It’s a male role; I use a beard and a fake tommy. He is a pirate, completely inept, he is a good sailor and that is the only reason why he is there but he fumbles around, falls all the time, it’s great! It’s worth it; suddenly a huge ship appears form underneath the stage in the middle of the show!