The “pastorale”, a real open-air theatre…
The Soule pastorale, certainly the heir to mediaeval theatre, constitutes the most elaborate form of Basque popular theatre.
Though it is similar to the liturgical dramas of the Middle Ages, the pastorale has evolved over the years. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, religious and heroic legends were its only inspirations.
Today, the themes are modern and relate closely to everyday life. Whole villages mobilise to perpetuate this ancient tradition. After rehearsals lasting almost a year, the pastorale is only performed twice during the summer, two weeks apart.
All in Basque, the play lasts about three hours. It has to be said that although this form of theatre attracts large crowds in the Basque country and is considered a major event in the Basque cultural calendar, it is vital to understand the language in order to appreciate all its meaning and finesse (booklets in French are also distributed to spectators).
The “mascarade”, between carnival and street theatre…
Every year, the carnival period (January to March) marks the beginning of mascarade in Soule.
The mascarade is performed by the young people of a village and the audience is the population of a neighbouring village, different every Sunday.
The characters are divided into two worlds, playing their parts in two very different registers:
- the dancers in their flamboyant costumes represent grace personified and the established order. Associated with corporations of “noble” trades, riders, farriers, peasants and notables, they form the red mascarade.
- alongside them, hairy, dirty, coarse, comical and sometimes violent actors: bohemians, kauterak (boilermakers), xorrotxak (knife-grinders) and gelders lead the black mascarade.
Stuffed with allusions and satire and adapted to include local personalities and events, the preaching of the “Kabana” closes the mascarade.