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"It's Antonio Banderas' theatre for now, but soon it will belong to the people of Malaga"

Lluís Pasqual.
Lluís Pasqual. / CARLES FARGAS
  • He rarely uses the word 'exciting' for fear of its exhaustion, but in this case Lluís Pasqual, director of the Soho CaixaBank Theatre, believes it to be apt: "It's like setting sail and not quite knowing where you're headed"

He is about to catch a flight to Naples. There, he is awaited by a Eduardo de Filippo interpretation, a theatrical staging with which he has been occupied for the last two years. Once this work is over, at the end of October, he will dedicate himself 24/7 to an "exciting" project, to which he gave an unconditional 'yes' as soon as his friend proposed the idea.

Lluís Pasqual is the director of the Soho CaixaBank Theatre, Antonio Banderas' stage, whose curtain rises this autumn in Malaga. The inauguration date is yet to be confirmed as works are still under way, "but the company began to rehearse on the 9th".

"A Chorus Line is under way and that is the most important thing. We are here to make theatre, not to construct buildings," emphasises the prestigious director, founder of the Teatre Lliure in Barcelona.

The musical, which will have its own press conference on 19 September, will mark the start of this unprecedented theatrical "adventure" in Spain. The show is receiving exclusively private funding, it is an in-house production, and has a training scheme in conjunction with Malaga's School of Performing Arts (ESAEM). "Unfortunately, the expectations are very high," Pasqual adds, laughing.

The inauguration of the Soho Theatre is less than a month away. The countdown begins...

We are in the countdown period, but nobody knows how much there is left to do. The schedule is very tight, but the company started to rehearse on the 9th, and I believe that it will be possible for us to be on stage by the second fortnight of October. Opening a theatre is like opening a house which receives strangers every day. This requires attention to details. We're very close, we're almost burning ourselves out.

At what stage are the construction works now?

They are focusing on the details. The stage is already finished. We are waiting for the arrival of the theatre seats, the completion of the wiring ... By the end of September, the acting company will be rehearsing onstage.

It must be exciting to be involved in the start-up of a theatre from zero.

It's incredibly exciting. But it's not from zero. This theatre has its past. It was the Alameda theatre and it has already housed many people, enjoyed laughs and also tears. On the other hand, however, this project is completely new and that is always a gift in itself because . I rarely used the word 'exciting' because it is overused, but, in this case, I believe it to be apt.

Friendship

What attracted you to the project and led you to say 'yes' to Banderas?

"It's Antonio Banderas' theatre for now, but soon it will belong to the  people of Malaga"

Firstly, our friendship. It's a huge advantage to know that your friend is going to be there like they always have been, that they will form part of the artistic project, and that they are brimming with ideas. The team being formed is not that large, but it is made up of professionals, which will ensure that performances at the Soho theatre will leave you wanting to return. Not because of the title or because of the actor performing, but because you know that this 'restaurant' never fails, to give a culinary comparison.

Was it an unconditional 'yes' or did you set out some conditions before accepting?

There were no conditions. Antonio and I have known each other for many years. The only thing I did say was that I would not be able to be involved 24/7 until the end of October, because I had already signed another project. I am rehearsing Eduardo de Filippo's La Grande Magia in Naples.

And what next after A Chorus Line?

It's impossible to say. After A Chorus Line, there'll be theatre, music, dance and more. But this project involves organisations in Malaga and other theatres outside the city and this requires a lot of tact and preparation. The calendar is uncertain at the moment, but that's normal. This is completely new, and it's a mystery for everybody involved.

Filling 900 seats is no easy task.

It's a big theatre. The average theatre of this kind has 500 seats. We have double that. We're going to give it a good go; nobody has told us it's impossible.

It's a private theatre, with in-house productions and training. This is the first of its kind in Spain. You are pioneers in this sense. Does this generate a sense of uncertainty?

There is indeed uncertainty, but I have faith in one thing. Theatres end up belonging not to a person but to the city. At the moment, it is Banderas' theatre. It is an act of generosity on the part of Antonio, but these theatres end up belonging to the people. As long as this continues to happen, the Soho theatre will exist.

What can the Soho CaixaBank Theatre bring to a cultural city such as Malaga?

Life. Theatre forms part of life. Eight months ago, I hardly knew Malaga, but it makes me very happy to know that it is this neighbourhood which shall be filled with life. It's gone from being an unsafe district years ago to being a neighbourhood which will be filled with actors and dancers, which is wonderful.

Is Antonio Banderas already proving a magnet for big names coming to Malaga?

It's not a question of Antonio's appeal. This theatre has to demonstrate that it is a serious theatre, with high-level productions. It should go beyond whether Antonio is here or not. It's a place which has to be just as appealing for the public as for the artists themselves.

To what extent is the training side of the theatre important?

It's fundamental. A theatre which opens in the 21st century has to take on an educational role, and not only rely on schools.