Anton Skrzypiciel – Interview


© Francisco Salgueiro

Which love came first, dance or theatre?
I actually remember when I was very young seeing some ballet on television and thinking it was just the most fantastic thing. But I come from quite a poor background so it was just never on the cards that I was going to get dance classes, and there wasn’t any kind of subsidy for those kinds of things when I was a youngster. So it wasn’t until after I started doing my acting training that I realised that I didn’t like “actors” very much, and I realized more and more that I wanted to to more movement based things. And that’s why I kind of swapped over at a certain point to doing a full time dance training after my acting training. I guess it’s still dance that I really love the most, however that gets more and more difficult to do. But they’re both grand things.

Was training important in your journey?
I think training is very important, and I’ve been very lucky to have some really extraordinary teachers at various point in my life. There is a certain thing with acting training where some people say it’s just teaching you not to fall over the furniture. Whereas with dancing I think the technical foundations are much more important. At a certain point with acting, of course, you need a technical formation in order to allow your ideas and your emotions to be presented, not to kill yourself vocally, and things like that. To be able to do a season of a play that lasts a long time, especially if it’s violent on the voice, if it’s a big part, you need a technical foundation.

You have lived a bit all over the world. How has that affected you as an artist?
I think the more you expose yourself to different cultures and different situations it makes you grow in all kinds of ways, and you’re challenged in all kinds of ways that sometimes you never expect. The difference between living in a western culture to living in Thailand for instance is huge. And it’s not that I want to take those things in particular into my own life, but you get challenged to step out of yourself, and to look at things and comprehend them for what they are. That’s a good skill.

How did your connection to Portugal come about?
I worked with a Portuguese choreographer, Rui Horta, in Frankfurt for quite a few years, and in Munich as well a little bit. That was my first connection to Portugal. I stopped dancing around about 1999/200. I didn’t to go on stage at that point anymore, so I went to dive in Borneo full time as an instructor and dive guide. An then Rui was doing this project in Portugal  that I found out about and it was a bit of a joke that I wrote to him and said “now you’re somewhere lovely I don’t have any work with you”, and he invited me to do that. So I came, and then people just kept asking me to stay and do various bits of work. I had the good fortune to end up working with lots of interesting people doing lots of interesting things. And I ended up staying.

You have worked with countless Portuguese creators. Are there any commonalities?
The amazing thing about Portugal in a way is that it supports so much difference, given how small the place it. Some of the commonalities are I think that in general there’s a kind of belief in poetry here, in all kinds of ways. Whether it’s within movement or in text. And I think that has a lot to do with the character of Portugal and of the Portuguese people. I think there’s a kind of radicalism here that is pretty amazing. People are very happy to step outside of defined boundaries, so there’s lots of crossing over of things like visual artists working with theatre companies, like Catarina Campino working with Teatro Praga, people going over these borders in different ways. Another of the characteristics of people I’ve worked with is that they’re always late! But that’s a cliché about Portugal, and I find it to be very true, especially with the people I have worked with.

© Pedro Mendes

© Pedro Mendes

What areas do you still want to explore as an artist?
I’ve done a lot of what I wanted to do. It’s not so much as there’s a different area I want to go into. I’ve been really lucky. I would love to do more film. But I guess I just want to keep being able to do good work. That’s the really important thing for me. That I continue to be interested in it. Because it’s just too difficult to do when it’s not good work. I don’t want to be doing crappy work just because it pays some money, although money would be nice. There are lots of other things to do in the world apart from bad art.

What are your current and next projects?
At the moment I’m dancing with Tânia Carvalho in her piece “Weaving Chaos”. It’s got some touring happening in February. And at the moment I’m starting a new project that’s going to be performed during Lisbon Week in April, directed by Ana Padrão and choreographed by Catarina Trota. It’s like a crazed mishmash of things that hopefully will be very exciting. I’m starting the work tomorrow, so I can’t tell you much more about it apart from the fact that I’ll be playing the inventor of lobotomy, Egas Moniz, a Portuguese Nobel Prize winner in fact.

What’s your opinion of the state of culture in Portugal?
There’s something rotten in the State of Portugal, to say the least. Simply that the current Government apparently hates culture. The idea that the Prime Minister installs himself in a position of saying that this country doesn’t need a Minister of Culture, and he can do that in his spare time speaks volumes about the idiocy of that particular group of people.  The lack of money leads to all kinds of difficulties. I also think that there are structural problems in the way that any art is funded here. People are funded primarily to make work, and then there is really very little money for touring. Because people make their money by making work, I think people here who are successful tend to over produce in incredible ways. They grab whatever they can for production costs and keep making work and making work, to the point I don’t go and see a lot of things because it seems to me to be regurgitations. People working at three projects at the same time. It seems to me that very brilliant people in the world don’t work that way, so I doubt that many people in Portugal are capable of creating five or six pieces a year.

On top of that, the structural thing of having to do a certain number of performances of plays becomes very difficult when you have theatres that are continually canceling performances, that don’t book performances of contemporary dance or theatre. Structurally, life is very difficult here, and the lack of money makes working here increasingly difficult.

It seems to me also that the small amount of money here now has made people really fearful and protective about their own things. There’s a kind of surge in bitchy arseholery, I would say, of artists towards each other and each other’s work that didn’t use to exist. Because even though people were never rich here from their creative work, there was enough for people to get by on. And now people are trying to just claw in whatever they can get, and also a very serious ill will towards people who are more successful than themselves. And that I find a grave shame.