Interview for LUSA

(Portuguese Press Agency)

Questions by Joana de Sousa Dias, answers by Leopold von Verschuer

Boa tarde, Joana!

The german philosopher Heidegger says: “Not the questions but to listen is the first gesture of philosophy.” My part in the play is the hospedeiro (the host), I will be the listener of this evening.

1 – Why did you chose Fernando Pessoa and why this “Banqueiro Anarquista”?

My friend Ulrich Marx (who has the part of the Banqueiro) interpreted the “Anarchistischer Bankier” the first time 30 years ago. I met him in 1995. Since that time we planned to realize the play again together. I have great sympathy with your country. In 1998 I got the opportunity to play the premiere of the monologue “Teatro impossível” by Alvaro García de Zúniga on stage of the Calouste Goulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. It was my entry to the world of arts in Portugal.

2 - What message do you intend to convey/express with this play?

Dear Joana! Art is not a telephone. Messaging is not my duty. What is the message of a piano-piece from Eric Satie? It’s music. Pessoas poetry is music, his words are flowers that open their calyx when you take them in your mouth. This is also the case in the very nice translation by Reinold Werner published in the Wagenbach Edition. It’s a joy to make reverb the sound of Pessoas ways of thinking. Of course there is a message in Pessoas text. I do not doubt you will find out which one.

3 – Pessoa was one of the Portuguese greatest writers (and possibly one of the best known abroad) but he was also very complex, was it “easy” to build this play? What was the biggest challenge?

All my actors, translators and directors life I have been attracted by complex language-structures. They feel to me like music, and taking them in my mouth on stage is like dancing. I feel like a dancer in words. It was a real exploration of the loveliest complexity sentence by sentence in Pessoas poetry. Nevertheless the structure of the “play” we realize is very simple: one man talks a lot, another man is listening. It seems so simple that the challenge might be: how to make out of it a “dramatic” performance. My personal challenge is the same you will have as an audience member: to be present by listening for 85 minutes. That’s perhaps what our actual world needs more than ever: to be able to listen.

4 – This text was written almost one century ago, does it remains actual?

This text is resonating today as if it was written yesterday. It is astonishing and a reason to make out of it a play. Pessoa was enemy to the two extreme positions of absolutized capitalism and absolutized political action against it. Look around in Europe. It’s the play for actual Europe.

And here: the article in RTP Notícias!

Leopold von Verschuer