Out of the Wings

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Un hombre en la puerta (1984), Jaime Salom Vidal

English title: A Man at the Door
Date written: 1984
First publication date: 1998
First production date: 10 May 1984
Keywords: ideology > politics, identity, identity > sexuality, history > memory, love > relationships

Victor has come to a crossroads in life. His political career is in shreds and he has lost his youthful idealism. He looks back into the past, to the moment when he opened a door and met his first love Miriam. But when he goes back through that door years later, Victor finds a changed woman and a changed world. The past holds few answers for Victor. He must learn to move forward, through new doors, into the future.


When Victor was a young man, he renounced his privileged upbringing and left home to make his way as a political activist. He risked his life distributing anti-government propaganda. Then, when his party finally became part of the establishment, he forged out a successful political career that has taken him almost to the top. Yet, as the play begins, Victor’s political dreams are in tatters. He has just given a speech, criticising the party’s leadership for being undemocratic. None of his colleagues was prepared to support his call for organisational change, and, as a result, Victor faces the prospect of having to abandon the party he loves.

Wanting to avoid the media after his controversial speech, Victor takes refuge in the home of his former lover, Miriam. They first met over 20 years ago, when Victor was a young activist being chased by police. Hoping to avoid arrest, Victor ran through the first unlocked front door he came to. Miriam was behind this door. She worked as a dancer, entertaining male audiences every night with her scantily-clad routines. They could not have been from more different backgrounds, but the chemistry between Victor and Miriam was obvious from the start and they soon embarked on a passionate romance. This was Victor’s first experience of love, and it is one he has never forgotten.

Victor is now married with children. Miriam owns a successful dance school. They have not seen one another for years. Despite this, Miriam knows that Victor will turn to her for refuge, just as he did when he was a young man. Victor still has a key to Miriam’s house, which he gratefully uses so he can briefly hide away from his family, colleagues and the media. When Miriam returns home, she is pleased to see her former lover again. The mood between them is nostalgic. They drink wine and remember when they first met. As they talk about the past, a younger Victor appears on stage. We see his initial encounter with Miriam, bursting in from the street outside in the hope of shelter. This young Victor is arrogant and charming, and it is easy to see why Miriam fell for him. In contrast, older Victor looks dejected and defeated, as he laments the imminent loss of his career.

Young Victor is primarily an ethereal presence on stage. He interacts with Miriam, but only when she is reminiscing about the past. In reality, she does not appear to notice that he is actually there. Victor, however, sometimes engages with his former self. Young Victor accuses his older self of throwing away 20 years of good political work. Older Victor, looking back on his life, questions his younger self’s commitment to politics. Did he really run away from his privileged upbringing for a noble cause, or was it simply because he hated his father?

As the day wears on, Victor vacillates between self-doubt and feeling proud of the stance he has taken over his party. Miriam is sympathetic and tries to console him, which eventually leads to them making love on the sofa. It is an encounter fuelled by drink, but also by memories of their past happiness together. Yet things have changed since Victor and Miriam were lovers. Their lives followed different paths. In fact, Miriam is now in love with a woman – Berta. When Berta returns home she immediately knows that Miriam and Victor have slept together. She has heard a lot about Victor, and understands just how important he used to be in Miriam’s life. Berta’s capacity to understand and tolerate Miriam’s behaviour is almost saintly. She does not react angrily to the situation between Miriam and Victor. Instead, she invites Victor to stay for more wine.

Victor and Berta get to know one another. He learns that she used to be a teacher in a convent school. She had an inappropriate relationship with a female pupil, which almost led to the girl’s suicide. At that time in her life, Berta was still a staunch Catholic who believed that she and the girl deserved to be punished for their behaviour. Looking back on the experience, Berta believes that the girl was a casualty of her own beliefs. She compares the situation to that between Victor and Miriam. In her eyes, Miriam was a casualty of Victor’s political career, in which there was no room for a morally-questionable cabaret dancer. On stage, we get a glimpse of why Victor and Miriam broke up. A younger Victor asks Miriam to give up her job as a dancer and to be by his side when he enters serious politics. She refuses to do so, and so it does indeed appear that Victor chose politics over Miriam. As we go back into the past again, we see the very moment that the relationship between Victor and Miriam broke down for good. Victor was briefly imprisoned for his political activism, and when he came out of jail he accused Miriam of denouncing him. She vehemently denied the accusation, and the couple angrily went their separate ways.

Now, years later, Miriam has forgiven Victor. She even tries to convince him to make amends with his party leadership. But Victor is adamant that his career is over. In his mind, he has nothing left, other than Miriam. Berta suspects that Victor will try to take Miriam from her. When Miriam leaves the room, Berta asks Victor not to ruin her relationship. She argues that she loves Miriam more than Victor ever could. Victor, however, sees Berta’s tolerance of Miriam’s behaviour as a form of passive-aggressive control. He does indeed ask Miriam to start a new life with him. But Miriam refuses. Her life has changed, and she does not believe that Victor really knows what he wants. Victor goes to leave. Before he does so, Berta tells him that he should be commended for standing up for his political principles – once again displaying her almost-saintly capacity for understanding. Victor departs. Suddenly angry, Miriam goes to her room and slams the door, leaving Berta to drink what is left of the wine and to wonder if their relationship will survive.

Critical response

Eduardo Haro Tecglen notes that, while no actual political party is mentioned in the play, Victor can be supposed to have been a member of the Communist Party (1984).  Tecglen is of the opinion that, while the play may aspire to be allegorical about political and personal disenchantment in general, the story is too specific to be considered as such (1984). Another reviewer of the 1984 production, however, was much more positive about the play. Writing in ABC, Lorenzo López Sancho commented on how the presence of the younger Victor helped bring this character’s past alive on stage (1984). He writes that this is a ‘weighty, psychological drama with a very well-constructed complex structure’ (1984).

  • Salom, Jaime. 1998. El otro William. Un hombre en la puerta. Madrid, Fundamentos

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 22 March 2012.

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