‘Emma La Malcastrada’ is a stunning visual and aural examination of madness. It speaks of the profound loneliness of mental illness and the inevitable disconnection from reality. Based on Emma Santos’ ‘La Malcastrada’.
The adaptation finds a liberal interpretation in our physical theatre. It recreates an extemporal space where the protagonist freely and clearly relates what it means to be labelled mentally ill. The destruction of self-identity which takes place in the closed and desperate world of the asylums is painfully revealed. In defence of her insanity’s right to exist she suffered inhuman treatment and all because the real was simply not enough for her.
The play presents madness from the point of view of those directly involved. To approach the stigma of mental illness it is paramount to enter the place society considers the most appropriate final destination for the schizophrenic: the asylum. Now madness itself speaks out in place of psychiatrists and positions are reevaluated. Bufons represent the clinical world, they are not part of human reality. Bouffons, belong to that necessary madness which follows from understanding the real and they represent society’s codification of the truth: power, science, and religion. How appropriate then that they should accompany Emma in her tragedy on stage.
“Dear Mr. Gentis,
I am sending you this quick letter to let you know that I have received yours. I am very grateful for your interest in my scripts ‘La ilulogica’ and ‘La Malcastrada’. Today I received the Maspero Editions contract. Of course, one day one or two psychiatrists will boast about having psychoanalyzed Emma Santos. They will even display their personal mail. But for the moment they hide and try to stop her as much as they can. She however lives and writes her madness.
‘La Malcastrada’ was written between the streets and the hospitals of Paris, between two operations, between reality and dreams. Words are tightly linked to Emma’s body and to her illness. Write about how to commit suicide. The suicide is prepared. Write about my suicide. My soul leaves my body. I fell like writing, writing about my death. And write too to stay alive. I feel relieved as if I had committed suicide. The fight between words and death. Can’t do both things. Sad justification.
In ‘La Malcastrada’ I suffered between testimony and ghosts. Not there. There I create madness myself. It is not imposed upon me anymore. There not. I wrote there and then I voluntarily suffered. No more the humiliation that comes with madness. Madness triumphant. I have been the queen of madness.
I am always torn between words and evil. I have gone from madness to literature to arrive at the same point. The point of death and the laughter of madness.
I hope to see you soon, if you have some time. I say it again, Dear Mr Gentis, eternal gratitude and friendship.”
Paris, November 22, 1972
Emma Santos’ letter written to her antipsychiatrist, Roger Gentis who took an interest in publishing her writings