Out of the Wings

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El cementerio de automóviles (1957), Fernando Arrabal

Productions in Spanish

El cementerio de automóviles (Víctor García)

Director: Víctor García
Dates: May 1977
Venue: Teatro Barceló
Location: Madrid, Spain
Critical response

While Víctor García’s stagings of this play were spectacular, sometimes they overwhelmed critics. This was the opinion of the distinguished writer Enrique Llovet when he went to see this particular production at the Teatro Barceló in Madrid. Llovet commented that it was definitely something to go and see, but that the public was still waiting for a production that let Arrabal’s play truly speak for itself (1977).

El cementerio de automóviles (Juan Carlos Pérez de la Fuente)

Director: Juan Carlos Pérez de la Fuente
Dates: April 2001
Venue: Teatro de la Abadía
Location: Madrid, Spain
Critical response

This production was very successful. Critics noted that Arrabal himself was particularly pleased with it, and that the director skilfully managed to convey the play’s Spanish significance, as well as its universal importance. In fact, in the course of its run, Arrabal added explicit references to Basque terrorism (Villán 2001).

  • Villán, Javier. 2001. ‘El “Vía Crucis” de un inocente’, El Cultural, 4 April, http://www.arrabal.org/new192.html [accessed February 2011] (Online Publication) (in Spanish)

Further information

This production had toured Spain from August 2000. It was directed by the director of the Centro Dramático Nacional, and its tour length was the longest in the CDN’s history. In addition, this was the first time that the play had been directed by a Spaniard.

Productions in English

The Automobile Graveyard (Herbert Machiz)

Director: Herbert Machiz
Based on translation: The Automobile Graveyard (1960) by Richard Howard
Dates: 1961
Venue: Forty-First Street Theatre
Location: New York, United States
Critical response

This production was treated harshly by critics at the time, with many considering it infantile or an ‘indecipherable avant-garde joke’ (Tallmer 1961). Although not terribly sold on the play, Jerry Tallmer did appreciate the experience, describing the production as ‘a real ball’ and noting that ‘the whole evening is a razzmatazz of variously funny business, gags, quips, and effects, interspersed with excellent beatsongs’ (1961).

The Automobile Graveyard ( Pieper)

Director: Pieper
Based on translation: The Automobile Graveyard (1960) by Richard Howard
Production company: Trap Door Theatre Company
Dates: June 2001
Venue: Trap Door Theatre
Location: Chicago, United States
Critical response

This production was well received by critics because of its inventiveness. Some thought that the play had lost some of its ability to shock over time, but that the staging made up for this, with one reviewer noting:

The staging highlights every bit of Arrabal’s insanity, from making Jesus, Judas and Peter into the Marx brothers (the silent one speaks via harmonica) to conceiving the world as a hotel run in abandoned cars by a corrupt, unctuous bell captain. (Kleiman 2001)

The Car Cemetery (Natalie Abrahami)

Director: Natalie Abrahami
Based on translation: Car Cemetery (1962) by Barbara Wright
Dates: from November 2007 to December 2007
Venue: The Gate Theatre
Location: London, United Kingdom
Critical response

This production, spectacularly staged, alienated a number of critics who found it intellectually and emotionally lacking and steeped in an ‘exuberant, sensational silliness’ (de Jongh 2007).

  • de Jongh, Nicholas. 2007. ‘Long Drive to Nowhere’, London Evening Standard, 6 November

Productions in French

Le cimetière des voitures, Oraison, Les deux borreaux, La communion solennelle (Víctor García)

Director: Víctor García
Dates: 1966
Location: Dijon, France
Critical response

This was an amalgam of several different pieces by Arrabal. It was a very successful production, one of the first major successes for Argentine director Víctor García and, according to one scholar: ‘the first production to realise fully the potential of Arrabal’s unique dramatic world’ (Whitton 1987: 164).

  • Whitton, David. 1987. Stage Directors in Modern France. Manchester, Manchester University Press

Further information

The set was very elaborate, and subsequent productions used similar staging:

The spectators were seated on revolving chairs [… ] The only elements of décor were the shells of old cars, suspended from the ceiling, and cunningly jolted and hinged so that the actors could move over, under and through them. The movements of the actors did not always relate to the lines spoken, but attempted to convey the atmosphere of arbitrary violence. (Bradby 1984: 189)

  • Bradby, David. 1984. Modern French Drama: 1940-1980. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Le cimetière des voitures (Víctor García)

Director: Víctor García
Dates: December 1967
Location: Paris, France
Further information

The entire theatre was turned into an actual graveyard for cars, with the sound of clanging metal and screams. Spectators sat in swivel chairs at the centre of the action. For Arrabal, this was the ideal layout for the play (Arrabal, Knapp and Morris 1968: 74).

  • Arrabal, Fernando, Knapp, Bettina L. and Morris, Kelly. 1968. ‘Arrabal: Auto-Interview’, The Drama Review, 13.1, 73-6

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 15 March 2011.

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