Monchique version of Romeo and Juliet in a “medronho cathedral”

The identity of Monchique and the people of Monchique is intimately linked to medronho and, to get to know it, nothing better than a […]

Photos: Martyna Mazurek

The identity of Monchique and of the Monchiquenses is intimately linked to the medronho and, to get to know it, there is nothing better than a visit to a distillery during the production of the famous brandy. The “medronho cathedrals” are more than the place where “divine nectar” is produced. There is a whole associated ritual: there are smells and flavours, stories, conversations, socializing, a lot of work and, between March 31st and April 2nd, there will also be theater.

The project "till the sea” will present four Monchique distilleries during the Monchique Medronho Festival, showing not only the production process, but also the “magic” of these places.

Giacomo Scalisi, the mentor of the initiative, explained to the Sul Informação that “the idea is that, each night, people arrive at the festival at 18:30. They receive an object, which divides them into four groups of 20 people, who will travel on four buses. Each bus goes to three distilleries and each group sees the interpretation of three stories. Each group will have a distillery and a story they don't see, but that, when there is a reunion, the others can tell».

Giacomo Scalisi

The initiative, which lasts about three hours, will be made to the rhythm of a dinner: in the first distillery, starters will be served, in the second, the main course and, in the third, dessert.

The importance of food during this traveling show is highlighted by Giacomo Scalisi, because «drinking arbutus without eating is a problem and people will drink a lot of arbutus, because at each distillery they will taste it».

Therefore, the best thing is not to take any chances when returning home: «we ask people to stay in Monchique, not to return home by car, for their happiness, to be rested and to be able to make the most of the project».

And the stay in Monchique is even easier for the participants. “We went to talk to the hotels, from the five star, to the pension, and we established partnerships. There are very attractive prices for people to stay during the weekend in Monchique and enjoy the Festival», says Giacomo Scalisi.

The person in charge of “Lavrar o Mar”, together with choreographer Madalena Victorino, says that at the genesis of this project is a fascination that Giacomo has always had for «this divine nectar that is produced here and that constitutes one of the strongest identities of Monchique. Medronho comes from a very old tradition, which continues to be developed. After the parents, the children are continuing this ritual” and “the show wants to celebrate and show the places where it happens, which are the distilleries”.

Giacomo Scalisi says he was “surprised by this ancient ritual that, even with the legalization of distilleries, is maintained. Although they are improving in everything, whether in the products or in the rules of distillation of medronho, the ancient ritual is there and it is strong. The places themselves breathe this particular atmosphere».

Photos: Martyna Mazurek

The mentor of the idea thought it was “interesting to show this. I thought about how it would be possible to get people to distilleries. I didn't want to show how they work in a visit, but to associate it with a moment of art, which is, at heart, Lavrar o Mar».

For this, he called two writers, Afonso Cruz and Sandro William Junqueira, who wrote the texts that will be interpreted by the actors. «I spoke with Afonso Cruz, because we have a list of other projects and because Afonso Cruz himself distils at home. He makes beer and spirits of different things. Therefore, I had a personal interest and material to write. Sandro, on the other hand, is from Portimão and also has a connection with Monchique», he explains.

During their research work, a door was opened “to these rituals, with what is eaten, what is discussed” and Giacomo Scalisi believes that the texts of Sandro William Junqueira and Afonso Cruz managed to reflect this in the best way possible.

“These are very deep stories. The two managed, in a short time, to “catch” the reality of Monchique. It is a reality in this mountain range, there is no other like it. I think we managed to “catch” this way of being, relating and living in a society very linked to the land. The strawberry trees, the strawberry trees, the distillery, the flowers, the plants, the firewood, the wood, all of this is an intrinsic part of each one of the Monchiquenses”, explains Giacomo Scalisi.

The four stories written are all linked to medronho and the person responsible for the Lavrar o Mar project unveils a little of one of them: «Sandro wrote a very beautiful story, based on a text that everyone knows, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It will be a Monchique version, about two families that produce strawberry trees and are in struggle. The two young people like each other, they want to get married, but the families don't. In between, there is a fire, which burns everything, and then she commits suicide with ethanol, which is released in the first part of the brew, which really kills, and she commits suicide with it».

One of the distilleries where “Lavrar o Mar” is going to | Photograph: Martyna Mazurek

The distillation of aguardente de medronho is usually, for people close to the “master” responsible for producing the liquid, a moment that brings together “friends and friends of friends”. The fact of receiving strangers in their distilleries could be a problem for the producers, but it was not: «I was very surprised, because they opened all the doors».

Also for this reason, Giacomo Scalisi highlights the opportunity that will be given to participants in the activity. “It's a unique opportunity. It is not just a visit for “tourists”, but a way to visit places and participate, not only in the distillery, but in an event that can only be seen there. These texts can be read and presented in other places, but they make sense and are designed for those places».

“You really have to go to Monchique to see this show, you can't wait for it to arrive in town. If you like medronho – if you don't, I don't think it's worth coming – if you like to get to know these places, which have a very long history and are part of this mountain range, it's a unique opportunity not to be missed», urges Giacomo.

In order not to miss the opportunity, you can buy tickets, which cost 10 euros, at the website of "Lavrar o Mar", in the BOL, at the Monchique Library and at the headquarters of “Lavrar o Mar” in Aljezur. But hurry up, the vacancies are almost over.

These Artistic Meetings, which take the Theater to the Cathedrals of Medronho, are part of the Plowing the Sea project, financed by 365 Algarve program.