Between the prison walls there is also theater

“Entre Muros” project is taking theater to the Prison Establishment of Faro

Ricardo Branco, Manuel Alves and José Carlos Muxagata

There is Muxagata, Pelé, Manel and Ricardo. All are actors and, at the same time, main characters. They say each other's names and ages, walk around the room, transformed into a stage. They hug each other. Since March, every Monday and Tuesday are theater days “Entre Muros”. In these moments, art, more than enriching, becomes an escape to escape "that environment" of the Prison Establishment of Faro.

Between them there are no more than 400 meters away. Only a roundabout and a road separate the Teatro das Figuras from the prison, right at the entrance to Faro. Physical proximity contrasts with everything else. Or is it (already) not?

After meeting at the door of Teatro das Figuras, Gil Silva, director of that space, arrives with Teresa Silva, president of the cultural association Ar Quente, at the prison's security control. "We are the usual ones", says Gil, between laughs, to the prison guard who receives them.

Inside, in a small room, far from the cells, there will be four very special people waiting for them. The siren sounds and a voice is heard that announces: «participants in the Theater project, go to the rehearsal room».



And they get there. First comes José Carlos Muxagata, Spanish, son of Portuguese parents, in preventive detention for 7 months for drug trafficking. Then comes Ricardo Branco, 36 years old.

After a short time, Manuel Alves appears, with a smile on his face. He is 50 years old and has been in prison for five. "It was a theft that made me come here," he tells the story of Sul Informação.

Only at the end is the cast complete. Pelé, 38, has the name of a star and a desire to kick in sadness through the theater.

For a moment, there is silence in the small room. In turn, each inmate says the name and age of a colleague, as if each wanted to make their partner known. Then there are hugs, harmony and, whoever watches, doesn't even remember that those are four people who, at one point in their life, made a mistake.

This is an essay based on a training that has been given since March by Gil Silva and Teresa Silva. Basically, they are small theater exercises for a project that is not yet finished.

One of the most striking moments happens when the four inmates, with dark faces, point their fingers at each other.


A "blessed" hug between inmates

It is a metaphor for something that Manuel Alves lives in the skin.

“Unfortunately, I still feel that they are pointing the finger at me. We all deserve a chance, nobody is perfect. I want to try to be happy, have a job, a house, a family, without being pointed at me», he says, moved.

For the inmate, theater is “a way to break the routine”.

“It's been a pleasant experience that keeps the mind busy. It's good for people who think they can be better every day as human beings,” he adds.

Breaking prejudices is the main objective of this theater project called “Entre Muros”. The idea came from Teatro das Figuras, inserted in the motto of this year's program, “Culture & Social Intervention”, which promptly got in touch with the Prison Establishment of Faro.

«I spoke with the director of the chain, Dr. Alexandre Gonçalves, who was very interested in hosting this training. Then the adventure began, which has been very interesting», explains Gil Silva.

«For us, who are abroad, feeling this longing for coming here and being with them shows that we have created a positive synergy, of sharing moments that are unique», adds the director of Teatro das Figuras.


Teresa Silva

Teresa Silva has also been a trainer, together with Gil Silva. The work has been going on for a few months and the leader of the Ar Quente association still remembers how it all started.

“At first, they were a little embarrassed, as you'd expect. In fact, we were all still a little hesitant, but there was an extremely positive evolution. They accepted the proposals very well and, for us, it is very enriching to witness this great evolution», explains Teresa.

The recluse Ricardo Branco is the mirror of this growth. “When I arrived here, on the first day, we had to say our name, in an easy exercise, with three or four people watching, but it seemed complicated to me. Today it is simple and the progression is a lot», he says.

The taste for theater is such that Ricardo already stayed with the pet. “I see myself doing theater in the future, of course. It's been an oxygen balloon that has allowed us to develop new skills, have some fun too. It was a way for us to integrate better», he says.

And this is a job that doesn't want to stop there. The idea is to make a presentation outside the prison walls. «We are waiting for authorizations, but we would like it to be at “24 Horas Figuras”, on the 15th and 16th of June», said Gil Silva, to Sul Informação. 

Manuel Alves, Muxagata and Ricardo Branco

It would be a return to the theater for José Carlos Muxagata, the most outgoing of this cast.

«I went to the theater to see plays, in Huelva, but I never thought I was involved in one. I like art: it gives us freedom of expression, but also responsibility. When I learned that this initiative existed, I wanted to come right away. It's a good way of expressing ourselves and getting out of that environment», he considers.

Art also becomes a vehicle for promoting camaraderie.

«Being here with my friends, companions, expressing our feelings… One day we're fine, the next we're bad and it's a way of abstracting ourselves. It's good that people care about us that we are deprived of freedom. We feel the affection of the people who come here and teach us what we don't know», says Muxagata.

Attentive, the director of the Prison Establishment followed the entire rehearsal, showing himself to be delighted with the initiative.

«I hope that Teatro das Figuras has other projects so that we can continue this fantastic experience. I got people, even with some relationship difficulties, to transmit feelings, frustrations and knowledge of past lives», he says.

“I often say that people, when they see a prison or a cemetery, pass by. This is a way to change that way of thinking because there is a lot of good done here. We give people opportunities, without lowering our arms», he concludes, with a smile on his face.



When the rehearsal is over, the entourage stays chatting, showing how, in fact, it is possible to dispel prejudice and bring institutions that are even physically close together.

On the way out, everyone says goodbye with a smile on their faces.

Next week there is more theater.


Photos: Pedro Lemos | Sul Informação