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I Went to a Naked Orchestra: A Review of Carta by Monica Calle

Niamh Woodhouse

Friday, 25 March 2022

Impressive, thought-provoking and moving, Carta by Monica Calle tackles the modern-day topic of female empowerment amongst other themes. Our Editor-in-Chief, Niamh Woodhouse, shares her experience of attending the 'naked orchestra', read on to find out more.

Everyone tells you that a year abroad comes with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. However, one experience I did not expect was attending a naked orchestra.

My friends and I wanted to make the most of Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro (FIT), an international theatre festival that was taking place in Cadiz, the city of my Erasmus placement. So, we decided to get tickets for its inaugural show and had to take a second look when we read its description in the festival’s program.

Image caption: The silhouettes of the female musicians stood close together in a line across the stage.

When opening night came around, we arrived at the historic Gran Teatro Falla and climbed up to our seats in the Galera (gallery seats). Awaiting the start of the show, we were giggly, guessing what the next hour and a half could hold and expecting to awkwardly laugh throughout.

Then onto the stage came the show’s director and creator, Mónica Calle, to give a speech detailing the importance of the show to her as well as the strong connection she felt to Spain, the country of her birth. She also introduced the cast of around 25 female performers of varying heights, races and physical builds – still fully clothed at this point. After this, the lights dimmed, the women undressed and collected their instruments; then the performance began.

Over an hour and a half, the performers interpreted Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, with the traditional orchestral instruments, as well as their voices and bodies. Against what we had originally thought, a few minutes into the show we didn’t think about the fact that the actresses were naked anymore and simply enjoyed the art that was playing out in front of us.

Image caption: Silhouettes of the female musicians playing their instruments on a low-lit stage.

After the show, we got the opportunity to meet and have some drinks with the actresses – thanks to a friend, Fatima, who worked at the festival. Chatting to them, we were shocked to find that they were a similar age to us and that, although they had all had experiences on stage before, only a few of them were actual musicians or trained ballerinas. However, this surprising fact was no coincidence and turned out to be an integral part of the show. Calle had purposely chosen actresses with little to no experience of professional dancing and playing music, in an effort to push the human form to its very limits and demonstrate that the impossible can be achieved as a collective.

This collectiveness and sisterhood could certainly be felt amongst the young women, both on and off the stage. During the spectacle, they managed to disguise any inexperienced wobble or misplayed note from an individual performer by working harmoniously as an ensemble. From talking to them after the show, you could see that a real friendship, even a family, had formed between the actresses as they chatted and complimented each other on their performances. The idea of sorority was also reflected in the fact that the women were naked, with many of them saying that being nude on stage was a lot less daunting knowing they were together as a whole, united in their vulnerability.

Calle and her troupe are currently touring Europe with Carta and I would wholeheartedly recommend attending if it comes to a city near you! The show truly demonstrates female empowerment as the women together take on impressive feats and push their bodies and skills to the limit, ultimately triumphing over adversity.



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Images provided by Niamh Woodhouse.

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