Out of the Wings

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El cementerio de automóviles (1957), Fernando Arrabal


The play is divided into two acts.

  • The play is set in and around a ‘cemetery’ of rusty old cars. Five of these cars are hotel rooms, with curtains where the car windows should be. A sixth car, Car A, functions as the hotel reception. Within the hotel cars reside a number of guests. These include an elderly couple and several different men. The guests are never seen on stage, but can be heard speaking and laughing throughout the play.
  • At times, binoculars poke out from behind car curtains. In act 2, Milos looks through binoculars of increasing size, starting with a pair of opera glasses, through to a large telescope.
  • In act 2 a little boy is born to the elderly couple. We hear its cries as Emanu is whipped and beaten offstage.
  • In an echo of Peter’s denial of Christ, when Foder denies that he knows Emanu car horns sound out three distinct times.
  • Near the end of the play, Emanu’s bloodied body is wheeled in, strapped to a bicycle as if tied to a cross – with his arms stretched across the handlebars and his feet tied together.
  • Much of the action in the play takes place offstage, as the noise of the dancehall crowd, or Emanu’s screams, serve as a counterpoint to the action taking place onstage. In fact, whistles and sirens can be heard offstage throughout the play.

Notable Character Information

  • At intervals throughout the play, the ‘athletes’ Tiosido and Lasca run across the stage and disappear. Tiosido is young and wears a runner’s vest with the number 456 on it. In contrast, Lasca is an old grey-haired woman. She times Tiosido using large clocks.
  • In act 2 Lasca and Tiosido are dressed in police uniforms. At the sound of a starting pistol, they take off, and reappear periodically running across the stage in the hunt for Emanu.
  • Foder carries a saxophone, Emanu a trumpet and Topé a clarinet. While the three musicians wait to perform, they sit or lounge on hammocks and keep themselves busy by knitting.
  • Foder never speaks during the play, but his gestures are very expressive.

Jazz music underscores many of the early scenes of the play, as Foder and Topé play for the dancehall crowd while Emanu remains on stage with Dila. 

Cast number
Minimum Maximum
6 males 7 males
3 females 3 females
9 (total) 10 (total)
  • LASCA, Old woman
  • TIOSIDO, Young man
  • MILOS, Distinguished-looking concierge, about 40 years old
  • DILA, Beautiful 25-year-old woman
  • EMANU, Trumpet player, 33 years old
  • TOPÉ, Clarinettist, 30 years old
  • FODER, Saxophonist, mute, 30 years old

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

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