Out of the Wings

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Olvida los tambores (1970), Ana Diosdado

English title: Forget the Drums
Date written: 1970
First publication date: 1970
First production date: 1970
Keywords: family, family > brothers/sisters, family > marriage, history > change/revolution, identity, ideology > politics, love > relationships, love, love > friendship
Genre and type: melodrama

In 1970s Spain, a group of young people come together for dinner. Some are free-spirited, others traditional. An older man joins them, the catalyst for the fears and hypocrisies of the younger generation to emerge.


It is the 1970s and young Tony and Alicia have embraced the free spirit of the age. Although they are married, they live in separate apartments, seeing each other as and when they like. Despite their unconventional living arrangements, Tony and Alicia are very much in love. Tony is an aspiring composer who writes songs with his best friend and partner, Pepe. On the night of the play, the young men’s’ fortunes are about to change. A renowned record producer is interested in their work, and a dinner has been arranged to discuss business.

While Tony is excited at the prospect of the forthcoming meeting, Alicia has other things on her mind. She has not seen Tony for eight days, and despite the supposed freedom of their marriage, she cannot help wondering where he has been. Added to this, Alicia’s older sister Pilar has turned up on her doorstep. Pilar is a wealthy young housewife who has left her husband, Lorenzo, to ‘find herself’ in Madrid. Whereas Alicia has always been a free spirit, Pilar has lived a conventional life with Lorenzo. He is understandably shocked at his wife’s sudden disappearance. And so, Lorenzo soon also turns up on Alicia’s doorstep, having followed Pilar to Madrid.

Alicia has never been close to her sister. At first, she is amused by what she sees as Pilar’s and Lorenzo’s bourgeois marital problems. But, in a rare moment of sisterly confidence, Alicia betrays a slight longing for Pilar’s conventional lifestyle. Lately, she has become disillusioned with her own marriage, not least because Tony seems to have forgotten that it is their third wedding anniversary. This, however, turns out not to be the case. Pepe arrives to tell them that the record producer will now be dining with them all at Alicia’s apartment. Tony has – belatedly – remembered that it is his wedding anniversary and wants to be with Alicia … as well as with Nacho the producer, Pepe and, unexpectedly, Pilar and Lorenzo.

While the group wait for Nacho to arrive, Tony surprises Alicia with his anniversary gift, a beautiful cameo necklace. Delighted, Alicia goes to bring out her gift for Tony. It is heavy, and so Pepe goes to help her, leaving Pilar and Tony alone. The atmosphere between them is tense, as we learn that Pilar and Tony have in fact spent the last eight days together. While the experience has been life-changing for Pilar, she soon realises that it meant nothing to Tony. But before they can clear the air between them, Nacho arrives.

It is hours later and Alicia, Tony, Pepe, Pilar, Lorenzo and Nacho have enjoyed a great deal of wine and whiskey. Nacho has had a wonderful time despite the slight tension, coming in particular from an increasingly drunken Pilar. Nacho says he will be happy to sign Tony and Pepe to his label. To celebrate their future success – and his wedding anniversary – Tony brings out the champagne. He suggests a toast. But Pilar is not in the mood for celebrating. Fuelled by drink and disappointment, she reveals that Tony spent the week with her. Alicia is devastated. Tony uses the occasion to mock Lorenzo, who has spent years looking down on his own unconventional lifestyle. Now, Tony has made a mockery of Lorenzo’s traditional marriage.

Nacho has been watching the night’s drama with a mixture of fascination and amusement. He has listened as the younger generation tried to impress their unconventionality on him. Now, he points out the conventionality of Tony’s and Alicia’s marital problems. Tony is angry and unrepentant. He reveals that he only slept with Pilar to take revenge on Lorenzo. Tony asked Lorenzo for a loan, only to be humiliated by his brother-in-law. Once he had spent time with Pilar, Tony returned to Madrid, but was too ashamed to look Alicia in the face for a number of days. Despite his shame, Tony is strident in his insistence that he is a good person, who simply made a mistake. Nacho, too, as he makes to leave, tells Tony that he still looks forward to working with him. He admits that he thinks Tony is an excellent composer. He has just one piece of advice: that Tony forget the drums. His advice pertains just as much to Tony’s combative outlook on life as to his music.

The night comes to a close. Guests leave until just Tony, Alicia and Pepe remain. Tony and Alicia have had a tentative reconciliation. Pepe goes outside to borrow Alicia’s car to go home. But it is not there; she lent it to Lorenzo hours ago to go into Madrid on business. Suddenly, the phone rings. Lorenzo has been in a car accident. There is no need to rush to the hospital; he has already died. On hearing the news, the three remaining characters on stage share a look, all understanding the futility of Lorenzo’s death.

Critical response

Olvida los tambores (Forget the Drums) was a supremely successful play. Its first production ran for four years and the play won a number of awards, including the Maite prize in 1970. Writing in 1972, Ana Diosdado herself expressed her surprise at the interest and debate surrounding the play (Serrano 2004: 417).

Víctor Conde, who has directed many productions, believes that the play has an enduring appeal, despite being set in the 1970s. In his mind, this is because it deals with issues – marriage, ideology, friendship – that transcend the play’s historical context (Tapia 2007). Similarly, Virtudes Serrano points out that, while the play is a reflection of a time of change and dissatisfaction among the young in Spain – in particular after the 1968 student uprising in France –it also deals with a universal theme: the ‘inauthenticity of human relationships’ (Serrano 2004: 418).

  • Serrano, Virtudes. 2004. ‘La imagen de lo que fuimos: Olvida los tambores de Ana Diosdado’. In Historia y antología del teatro español de posguerra (1966-1970), vol. VI, eds. Víctor García Ruiz y Gregorio Torres Nebrera, pp. 417-21. Madrid, Fundamentos (in Spanish)

  • Tapia, María. 2007. ‘Entrevista: Colegas de la tele en Latina’, El mundo, 20 September, http://www.elmundo.es/metropoli/2007/09/21/teatro/1190325637.html [accessed May 2011] (Online Publication) (in Spanish)

Further information

A film of the play came out in 1975, screenplay by Ana Diosdado and directed by Rafael Gil

  • Diosdado, Ana. 1970. Olvida los tambores. Madrid, Escelicer

  • Diosdado, Ana. 1972. Olvida los tambores. Madrid, Escelicer

  • Diosdado, Ana. 2004. ‘Olvida los tambores’. In Historia y antología del teatro español de posguerra (1966-1970), vol. VI, eds. Víctor García Ruiz y Gregorio Torres Nebrera, pp. 423-503. Madrid, Fundamentos

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 24 May 2011.

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