El Patio Teatro’s marvellous Entrañas

Words by Bengi-Sue Sirin.

Mime and puppetry have a universality about them that charms young and old, beyond language and life experience. Then it is no surprise that the latest offering in MimeLondon, an annual mime festival at the Barbican, transcended its place of conception – Spain – to enchant a sold out UK audience. The company El Patio Teatro showed their piece Entrañas (roughly translated as ‘insides’), reminding us that we are all made of the same corporeal stuff, and that stuff is rather marvellous. 

El Patio Teatro is a duo formed of Izaskun Fernández and Julián Sáenz-López. Like many parts of the body, they work harmoniously as a pair, seamlessly managing the many delicate transitions that make up the DNA of a puppet show. They speak (Spanish, of course) throughout, with subtitles for those of us not fluent. Entrañas is a show that entertains, yes, but it also informs and demonstrates. I could see it working just as well in the Science Museum circuit as in theatres.

The piece poses many questions; some that it answers, and some that it leaves for us to ponder. The first of these is enhanced by a delightful visual metaphor – a hospital-style trolley bed housing what appears to be a sheet-covered body suddenly collapses into nothing, as we are asked to consider: “What is a body?… A body is made of things that we cannot see.” And so we picked up on the tone of Entrañas very early on – delightful!

Entrañas is just as comfortable with sweetness as it is hard biology. One of the body sites it explores is the belly, described by Fernández as ‘my first home.’ Then, an anatomical model belly opens a cute little doorway and reveals a cosy and cute sort of diorama showing a living room, the sort of place that the Borrowers would nestle. I smiled! Then, there are arteries and bronchi illuminated in red, standing upright so they unexpectedly resemble cherry blossom trees. Against the black backdrop it makes an impactful impression. 

Image by Clara Larrea.

This creative reframing of a body part we take for granted and perhaps never think twice about is the strength of the show. I particularly relish the heart motif, where a large anatomical model of the organ is placed under a little spotlight. Fernández and Sáenz-López give us a moment to just look at it, take it in. Then, they themselves entwine one another in a sort of twisty side hug, necks tenderly tucked in. The shape mimics that of the heart! I had never viewed the heart as reminiscent of a hug but now I do I won’t ever unsee it. 

The belly, heart, and body water sections flow richly, following wonderful moment with wonderful moment. Then I must say Entrañas does begin to mellow. But, I reflect, such is the journey of life. The performers lead us towards the death of the body. Cleverly done – bravo! They ask us: “How much space does a body’s absence occupy?” And then they offer their interpretation, being that “We are more than our bodies, and our bodies are more than us.” A downpouring of what resembles ashes brings the piece to a beautiful ending, more in the realm of celebratory than funereal. I really enjoyed Entrañas. It had been a hard day and the show really brought me to a place of inspiration and awe, something I don’t think many shows could have achieved. I will keep an eye out for this quirky and creative company again!