Juan Radrigán was born in Antofagasta in 1937. He began working at the age of 16 in manual jobs when he also began to write short stories, poetry and novels. He has said in interviews that this experience of working with ordinary people provided a knowledge of the kind of characters he would depict in his theatre. He began writing plays in 1979 when his first play, Testimonios de las muertes de Sabina, was performed for the first time in Santiago at the Teatro del Angel. From this point he went on to write other successful plays and receive critical recognition and was awarded several significant prizes, including the Municipal Prize and the Art Critics’ Prize for Best Dramatist of the Year. Radrigán did not leave Chile during Pinochet’s dictatorship, instead choosing to find ways of writing which were encoded with the reality of what it was like to live in a dictatorship.
Radrigán writes about marginality, which is connected to a social, political and economic context, at the same time as evoking a more symbolic state of existential anguish. In Radrigán’s plays, the dispossessed, invisible and marginalised take centre stage as principal characters in his works; they are often old and defeated, struggling to stimulate any sense of hope. For this reason, Radrigán’s work has been seen as expressing a profound pessimism and relentless sense of despair.
Radrigán’s work has been compared to that of Samuel Beckett, in its disruption of a social and metaphysical status quo. In the case of Las brutas, Radrigán deliberately crafts a lumpen, Chilean Spanish, heavily textured and inflected with a dispossessed community’s language.
Boyle, Catherine M. 1992. Chilean Theater, 1973 – 1985: Marginality, Power, Selfhood. Rutherford, NJ, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 18 July 2012.