Santi Senso is ten minutes late but apologises immediately before inviting me to join him on a terrace on Merida’s Spanish square. Despite the arrival of autumn in the capital of Extremedura in Spain, it is more than thirty degrees this early afternoon. Santi Senso has the air of a nice kid playing at being mean when he casually admits that he has hardly slept at all. He wasn’t out all night partying though, but was participating in an independent short film about kickboxing, he says with an intense blue gaze.
'Intimate sensorial' theatre - in people's homes
Santi Senso moved away from his home in western Spain to become an actor but admits to returning as often as possible to enjoy his mother’s cooking and his grandmother’s advice. The actor trained with performers as Sofia Michopoulou,Tayeb Saddiki and Cristina Rota, whose school in Madrid has seen the most important actors and actresses of its time pass through its doors. Last year Senso played the part of Cleonice in Jeromy Savary’s production of Lysistrata at one of the most important gatherings of classical theatre, the 56th edition of the Meridafestival.
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'I need tension provoked by intimacy in order to feel alive,' Santi says, which is how he came up with the idea of a house theatre defined as 'intimo-sensorial', where performances simmer in the kitchens of different people. The third season of the 'intimate theatre' festival has just taken place from 20 to 23 October in Madrid.
‘I need this. I need to feel the heartbeat of the spectators in order to feel alive and to create a new language and a living theatre,’ he explains with large gestures, as if he wants to emphasise each of his words. Santi Senso calls his performances ‘orgies of feelings’, and they come for free: he asks merely for courage and generosity from an audience. His play Orgy Me, The Depravation Of Me ('Orgíame, la depravación del yo') is inspired by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s radical and provocative theatre play Orgy (1968). Whilst his offering contains neither sex scenes nor obscenities, there is plenty of hidden violence instead. In Orgy Me the actor invites the viewers to reflect on human relationships and on the way in which power and submission degrade them. Senso came back to Merida for a local prize-giving ceremony in the community a month ago. He ended up performing his play here after meeting a girl called Judith who was eager to open her home to Senti Senso and discover the world he inhabits. ‘The magic part of this project is that in the middle of a performance a neighbour may come and knock on the door or a telephone may ring,’ continues Santi Senso, when explaining how house theatre works. ‘Somebody could enter without being aware that a play is being performed in which we are sharing our joys and grief. The staging doesn’t change because we use the particular home’s lighting for our projections.’
'Claustrophobic but liberating adventure'
Senso disappears from my field of vision to go and give a brotherly hug to the vice-secretary general of the popular party of Extremadura, which was voted into power in July for the first time since the birth of democracy in Spain (Spanish dictator Franco died in 1975 - ed). ‘Sorry, that was my friend Juan Parejo,’ apologies Senso when he is back at the table. We continue where we had left off. ‘The viewers can leave in a state of shock after a performance,' he says. 'I succeed in opening inner channels in them but I can’t be held responsible for the consequences. They must deal with it themselves or consult a psychiatrist who can help them,’ he goes on to warn cautiously. He advises that anyone tempted by this claustrophobic but liberating adventure - of attending one of his 'intimate' house theatre plays - must leave ‘their shells and their defenses at the threshold because once inside we are all vulnerable. Otherwise we cannot dig deeper inside ourselves and share our experiences in creating a living theatre.' Santi Senso is certainly not fearful of the prospect of improvisation nor by the proximity of the public during his performances.
Santi claims that people don’t improvise with feelings because we all possess springs which are triggered by certain stimuli. It’s exactly this that the actor wants to explore. In the Orgy Me programme Senso announces a duality between the power and the fear which he and the spectators take part in by verbalising their most profound desires to make them come true. ‘I want to experience the force of powerful people, those with the power to construct, not to destruct,’ he concludes, full of hope.
Images: © Luis Bravo; video sensoPERDIDO/ youtube