The Dark Side of Love: Interview with Renato Rocha

By 25 June, 2012

If you consider yourself a bit of a Shakespeare buff and hanker after something in another tongue now and again, you’ll have been loving this summer in London with countless non-English productions on offer, many thanks to the World Shakespeare Festival. This is set to continue with Renato Rocha’s The Dark Side of Love, coming to the Roundhouse this week.

Combining young actors from London, a Brazilian director and a liberal approach to the Bard, The Roundhouse will be home to a promenade performance based on the theme of love from 26th June – 8th July. Set in the Roundhouse’s basement the performance will use this unique underground space and scenes taken from Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet to explore love at it’s most intimate and intense. We spoke to the director behind the production, Rio de Janeiro native Renato Rocha, to discover how he is feeling before the doors open on Tuesday.

Where did you train?

I went to drama school in Rio, but I did not finish because I started to do theatre very early, when I was 13. When I was at the school I knew a lot of people who called me for work. And I was interested. I needed to work to get money and so I started off that way really.

I’ve read that you’ve been rehearsing The Dark Side of Love with your actors for the past eight months. How did you chose the right people and what has been your process together?

When we did the auditions, we decided to do two workshops and two recalls. It was through that process that we could see their eyes shining or not; we could see who wanted to go to the really scary places.

I remember watching Cicely Berry [RSC Voice Director], who says that art’s main responsibility is to respond to people – so we started with this. And we decided to talk about love. We asked these young people how they can connect with Shakespeare nowadays. For me, what was important was to talk about what’s behind the words of the story. Who is this guy Hamlet, nowadays? Who are these people that can kill themselves for love, like Ophelia, or others for love, like in Romeo and Juliet. I asked them, is that possible to believe?

We also wanted to invite the audience to have an experience, so we started to talk about promenade. These feelings inside the installations invite the audience to be part of a game where you don’t see all the pieces and so you must make your own connections.

What techniques have you used to make such an experimental piece with a younger cast?

I am always running after something new, a new type of theatre. It is difficult because nowadays, everyone has already done everything.

As a performer I always tried to learn everything: circus, dancing, to play instruments because I think that each new discipline gives you a different approach. And as I director I have worked a lot with young people and my main objective is to give them a voice.

Really, it was an opportunity to combine my interests and experiences. I think this is really important because when you invite someone to talk about something that they really need to talk about, they are talking about themselves, and it makes everything stronger. So when they told me we were working with younger actors, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about their own experiences of love, as well as to do something experimental.

So you think there is scope to combine experimental theatre making with something potentially as traditional as a Shakespeare text?

I think that Shakespeare is very open. He wrote about things we can always identify with – that is why we still study Shakespeare nowadays. Think about how he spoke about religion, astronomy, human beings, the bad things and the good things… I think that if you look behind the Old English, or the translated Portuguese, you can see that Shakespeare is at his best when he is talking about our reality, so we can all identify with his stories.

Have you had any moments when there have been difficulties? Your actors are British and you are from Brazil, how was that?

There is a girl who has written a text that was inspired by Ophelia at the moment that she realises she is going to kill herself for love. She wrote a text inspired by that story, but a spoken word version.

What’s nice was to see the relationship with her own feelings. But at the same time, I just could not understand a lot of it! They know that I speak English, but sometimes I do not speak it so well and a lose a lot of things. But what is good is that I can see behind it, I can see if the relation is happening, if the eyes are telling the truth, if they believe what is happening. In fact, I am more free to see what is actually happening to them.

Give me your three key differences between working in the theatre in Brazil and the theatre in England?

One is the structure that you have to do your job. In Brazil there is never the money to do your best ideas, there is always improvisation to find solutions to what you want to do. Here, if you plan, if you say I need this this and that thing, you will get these things eventually. People here understand how art is important to society. This is the main difference.

The other difference is the people. Here people are more closed. Life is faster, you have to be early, or on time! Here it is all about your own income. In Brazil you say relax, look around you, you are not alone, and because it is so difficult to do things alone, you are more used to working with other to bring things together.

And finally, because it is hot and we are more affectionate, we do not mind touching each other. Here in Britain people are more closed, the clothes, here people should be more open with affection and touch. It is very funny. When people introduce me they shake hands, in Brazil we hug and kiss, from the first moment.

What about future productions, between the UK and Brazil?

I think that in London, you have something special. You have the whole of the world here. I think that London can give opportunities to people, to put them together and to look at the differences. So by bringing these different points of view together we have the ability to build something.

Me as a Brazilian, I have the ability to see certain things because I am not inside the problem and maybe as a foreigner I can see the outside vision. The opposite way round is the same. I think that London could be a great beginning to create a sort of international vision and use it as a place to experience social projects or education projects – when you are more worried about the human, not the artist.

Here you have the structure, but you can also have the creativity to do something an alternate way. We can look at these differences and ask how can we grow together with these differences. How can we exchange more? I think it is a lot to do with exchange.

The Dark Side of Love is a Roundhouse / LIFT 2012 production in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company for The World Shakespeare Festival, part of the London 2012 Festival. The production will run from Tuesday 26th June until Sunday 8th July

Tickets available from

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