We can put all he has done together and create a timeline that dispenses with personal or professional introductions. The result of that equation will tell who he was, who he is and, perhaps, who he wants to be.
This is the charming world of Bruno Nogueira. We know the figure, the work, the voice, and we are always surprised with the way he brings himself to us, who are (invariably) on the phone, in the audience, at home. We establish a platonic relationship of knowing and of caring, because he was a kind of safe place in these strange months through which we have lived. He connected us to him, to everyone and to those of us who knew that, every day at the same time, there was a moment when the pandemic disappeared and we could only hope the best was yet to come.
The title of the magazine, Portuguese Soul, is not unusual… do you believe there is indeed a Portuguese soul?
Yes. For better and for worse. We are everything we think we are not. We are a reservoir of virtues and contradictions.
The theme of this issue is Hope. Over the past year, your actions have been synonymous with hope for a large number of Portuguese people. Did the impact of your “initiative” catch you by surprise?
No, it didn’t. Far from it. “Bicho” was my salvation, like a kind of creative gymnasium, where despite the chaos around us I could feel there was a routine that saved me at the end of the day. I think that’s what created a connection with people: we were all in need of something that would give us security through regularity. It was two hours we all knew we were going to have, and it suggested a kind of strange normality.
What role can culture play at a time like this?
That depends on the point of view. For the government, very little. For artists, everything. And for the public, I think there is a division. For some, culture is not a priority, while for others it is the only thing that lets them dream and discover a kind of salvation from the harshness of their daily lives. Dreaming is very important when all else fails. Culture has this fascinating ability to challenge us, to make us feel uncomfortable, to shock us, to raise us and to help us grow. The role of culture can and must be to make us question things, to question the things we see. So we don’t conform. I think that’s what we should take from culture for the rest of our lives: never conform.
How has this industry changed during the pandemic?
It has stagnated. Culture’s already fragile situation has deteriorated to unprecedented levels. Technicians, actors, directors, choreographers: many are in dire financial straits. We are now back in half-empty and masked rooms, where Covid tests are required for all halls with a capacity of 500 or more. I have never heard of an outbreak that started in a theatre. We are not being guided by logic.
Is there any audience member who is going to pay for a Covid test, to put themselves through that discomfort, and then pay to see a show while wearing a mask in a half-empty theatre?
It’s offensive. Culture continues to be treated like an afterthought.
Can we speak of an “ode” to errors at the Princípio, Meio e Fim?
Yes, maybe it ended up there. A televised mistake causes panic. Television is only supposed to have programmes that are polished and ready to go.
I find it both baffling and fascinating to be able to fail and to show that mistake to the whole world. I get a lot of pleasure from the discomfort it causes.
How was the public reaction?
There was a bit of everything. People who immediately identified with the programme, and some who did not. I think they are both equally important. Consensus is too high a price, and one that robs us of liberty.
The public are grown-ups and can decide for themselves whether they want to be a part of the game and get out of their comfort zones or if it is something that doesn’t interest them. And whatever way they go is fine, but I cannot compromise what I believe in and the direction I want to travel.
In professional terms, is there any person or creation that has been particularly important to you? And how?
Sara was important to me for a number of reasons. I think there was some layer to the writing that I found I could reach, which made me very happy. But I can’t choose one. All the creations are faithful reflections of who I was at that time. Taken together, they are a kind of authorised autobiography.
Do you think we learn anything as a society?
I think we really want to believe so. But to be honest, I would say that we have all quickly returned to what we have always been, and that the ballast of solidarity caused by Covid will be soon forgotten. History shows us that humankind quickly forgets and returns to its comfort zone. We react with enthusiasm in the face of obstacles as great as this pandemic has been, we want to be the best version of ourselves, we want to help, and the truth is that in most cases this is what happens. But will it stay like this? I hope so, but I have my doubts.