Guernica Goodbye

Multiple award winning Festival play

Synopsis

Love overcomes hatred in liberated Chartres

Chartres in 1944 is a time of lionising heroes and denouncing collaborators. Solana is celebrating the Liberation when her grandson Rafael visits with a disclosure. The two were the only family survivors from the Fascist bombing of Guernica, and now Rafael has fallen in love with a German woman.

His confession is stalled by the presence of Resistance leader Jacques, a braggart and Solana’s new young lover. Rafael assembles a different picture of the heroic Resistance fighter. As questions surface, tensions build and break into a violent realignment of passions.

Zealot, hero and functionary – the black and white first impressions are etched away to reveal their underlying canvas.

Progress Theatre, Reading production of Guernica Goodbye

Progress Theatre, Reading production (top to bottom): Evelyn Frith (Solana), Steve Webb (Jacques), Marc Ray (Rafael).

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Character biographies

Solana – grandmother of Rafael, mid 50s.

Rafael – grandson of Solana, early 20s.

Jacques – lover of Solana, late 20s.

Solana Padilla y de Chavez was born in 1888 in Guernica y Luno, a town in north Spain near Bilbao. At sixteen she married the charismatic Pablo Chavez after a whirlwind courtship. A year later she bore a daughter, after which she was medically advised not to have another child. This she achieved against pressure from Pablo, her parents and the local priest. Her daughter Luisa married a local man Camilo Jaurés and gave birth first to Ernesto and then in 1926 to Raoul (later known as Rafael).

On 26 April 1937 Solana had taken Raoul to buy fresh bread when the town was bombed by the Fascists. A direct hit on the family home killed Pablo, Luisa, Camilo and Ernesto – her whole family – who had assembled for dinner after the day’s market.

Solana decided that day to leave Spain with Raoul. The long trek ended at Chartres in France where the two settled near the Rue Porte Guillaume in the ancient part of the city. Solana gained respect from her neighbours for her self-sufficient independence and for her devotion to the upbringing of Raoul. There was astonishment in the passion the severe woman applied to her dancing on the very rare occasions she was persuaded out.

A hard worker doing menial jobs, mainly as a seamstress, she retained her good-looks and figure. Solana took a lover very occasionally, for companionship and physical need, but never with any intention of commitment. She was scrupulously discreet and always controlled the end of the affair.

For the four years of occupation she displayed uncompromising passive resistance, refusing even to speak when asked directions by any German. This steadfastness gained her an impeccable reputation in the community.

Rafael Juáres was born Raoul Jaurés in 1926 in Guernica and since the age of eleven was brought up by his grandmother Solana in Chartres. The long walk from Northern Spain to Chartres left a vivid impression of the extremes of hospitality and of indifference. Mainly through usage, convenience and to blend in he adopted the more French name.

He was taught French by a tutor arranged by Solana on arrival in Chartres and never went to a lycée. Through his early teens Rafael spent his time doing casual work and reading in the library. Of an introvert nature and lacking the quick repartee in the local language he never had a girlfriend.

When he was fifteen he started work as a junior in the Prefect’s department following the exodus south of four-fifths of the city’s population. Rafael continued working in the department under German supervision throughout the war, a topic known by but not discussed with his grandmother.

He devoted his effort to doing what he could for the citizens of Chartres during the oppression and later the reprisals. He assisted in every way he could with general welfare for the displaced and bereft.

In early 1943 one of the linguists seconded from Germany was assigned to check his work. Ilse and Raphael became drawn to each other and in early 1944 became clandestine lovers.

Jacques Lebrun was born in 1918 in a small village twenty-five kilometres from Chartres. His parents were aggressive with little regard for others unless they were seen to be useful. Jacques skipped most of his schooling, preferring to mix with a much older crowd that hung round the lanes and the fields.

He learned his good looks and slick talk could obtain easy passage and an easier exit. At fourteen after being cajoled by his mates, he ran away to set himself up in Paris. He got as far as Chartres where he lived on the fringes without the kudos he had expected from his life in his home village.

Jacques was an opportunist in a world of grey racketeering, always the legman never the organiser. He began to feel life owed him more and it needed persuading to deliver it. He lived with a succession of young women in a city mostly deserted of its men. Late in 1942 he noticed Solana defiant against two German soldiers in the market. He registered the attitudes of the locals.

Jacques recognised the war as an opportunity and joined the PCF (French Communist Party) in 1941 when it declared active resistance to the occupying forces following the German invasion of Russia. Through underhand means he quickly became lieutenant of a cell operating round the village of Dammarie near Chartres. He used his power and status to extort the rewards he felt were his due.

In July 1944 Jacques realised his time of reckoning was at hand and sought an escape. He saw that fleeing through the immediate turmoil of the city’s liberation was not a choice.

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Setting

The living room of Solana’s apartment in Chartres, late afternoon, August 1944, two days after the city has been liberated by the Allies. There are three emblematic flats, each having a stylised (for copyright reasons) representation of one element from the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

Guernica elements

Stylised elements from Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

Up stage off centre is the whinnying Horse. The screaming Mother with infant is mid-stage to the same side, and down stage on the other side is the broken Soldier. Other elements from the painting are used to furnish the room eg the sharp-perspective table, a chair. The furnishings must not obscure the three flats. There is a central electric ceiling bulb with conical shade. The high contrast motif of the painting should be universal.

Two exits are recognised, one to the outside door, cellar, the other to the bedroom. Optionally there can be a small window upstage showing Chartres cathedral. As the curtain rises there is French street music and the peel of bells from a French cathedral.

The action takes place over a single time span in the living room of Solana’s apartment in Chartres. The fittings of the apartment are symbolic, being three flats. Each flat represents an element inspired by the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso and re-created in a Picasso style. Off centre, up stage is the whinnying Horse, the screaming Mother mid-stage to the same side, and down stage on the other side is the broken Soldier.

A French tricolour is draped over and totally obscuring Mother. Dress-making scissors, a 30cm rule and sewing paraphernalia are near by.

Other elements from the painting can be used to furnish the room minimally eg the sharp-perspective table, a chair. The furnishings must not obscure the three flats. The high contrast motif of the painting should be universal. Two exits are recognised: one from the apartment to the cellar; the other to adjoining rooms.

The living room is lit by a central stark light. The ritual sections identified in the directions should be marked by distinctive sound and lighting.

Guernica, Progress, set

The set realised by Progress Theatre, Reading.

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Background information

References

Painting – Guernica by Pablo Picasso 1937. Reina Sofía Art Centre, Madrid.

Photograph – Chartres, August 1944 (female collaborator) by Robert Capa. Published in Life Magazine, 4 September 1944.

Glossary

Don Quixote – Novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra written while in prison in two parts, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha (1605, 1615)

Doña Perfecta – Thesis novel (1876, trans. 1880) by Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) expounding the evil of religious intolerance.

Falange – Spanish political party, Falange Española, founded in 1933 by Migual and José Antonio Primo de Rivera. It glorified strength and force, favouring dictatorship and merged with a Fascist group, the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Syndicalista in 1934.

Garrotte – Spanish apparatus for putting criminals to death, originally a string, sometimes knotted, round the throat and tightened by twisting a stick; later a brass collar tightened by a screw whose point enters the spinal marrow.

Kraepelin – German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926), who developed the first widely accepted classification of mental disorders.

Oradour – French village of Oradour-sur-Glane near Limoges, burned and all 642 men, women and children massacred by 2nd SS Panzer division, 17 July 1944.

Pelota – Variety of court games eg Pelota Basque, played with a ball and glove, hand or racket, either facing the opponents or facing a wall.

SOE – Special Operations Executive, espionage agents parachuted into continental Europe.

Traction Avant – A 1934 12-hp (7CV) revolutionary motor car by André Citröen with a 1,303 cc ohv 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels. Frequently used as staff cars. Discontinued in 1957 after 700,000 had been built.

La Tâche – Red Burgundy. Grand Cru of Vosne-Romanée and ‘one of the best vineyards on earth’; dark, perfumed and luxurious. (Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book)

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Highlights

  • Script wins drama competition The script was winner of the Drama Association of Wales Play writing competition.

  • First performance by Progress Theatre, Reading. Evelyn Frith (Solana), Marc Ray (Rafael), Steve Webb (Jacques), directed by Terry Mackay.

  • Three awards at Henley-on-Thames Drama Festival. The production by Progress Theatre won three awards. Evelyn Frith won Best Actress, Marc Ray won Best Actor and for the Production.

  • Script “a close second” in Santos competition. The requirement was for a Spanish play.

  • Praise from Samuel French Ltd. “This is a powerful and well-written drama, exploring strong themes and attitudes with skill and ease. It has a strong and engaging narrative and provides three excellent character roles.” Paul Taylor, Director.

  • Finalist in theatre’s drama competition. The script was short listed for production by Skipton Little Theatre.

  • Wins Best Actress award at Welsh Drama Festival. Hilary Harvey claimed Best Actress award at the Welsh Drama Festival. The Seesaw Productions staging was competing in the Pembrokeshire Drama Festival held at the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven.

Where to get the script

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