Lisbon Players: the return of the oldest company in Lisbon which performs theatre in the English language
by Ana da Cunha13.04.2022
For two years it has been silent as it lost its home and because of the pandemic, but now the Lisbon Players is back on stage with An Englishman Abroad – showing at the Teatro do Bairro until April 16th.
Elizabeth Bochmann used to peep through the curtains at Estrela Hall to see her mother, Celia Williams, act in English, the language she spoke at home. After much insistence and aged 11 she too performed on the stage which she had come to regard as her “second home” and became a part of the English speaking theatre company: the Lisbon Players.
Elizabeth is now a professional actress, director and teacher of drama. And in turn she takes her recently born son, Nathaniel to the rehearsals and performances of the company’s latest production. And she is directing her mother, who herself taught her so much.
The play, Na Englishman Abroad, with Celia Williams and Mick Greer as protagonists, is running until April 16th in Teatro do Bairro. It’s an appropriate title for a company that performs theatre in English, in Lisbon. The text is by Alan Bennett and tells of a real life encounter between the West End Actress Coral Browne and a British spy, exiled in Moscow, Guy Burgess. Dupla atualidade, portanto.
The play also marks a return: in 2020 the company lost its home, the eternal Estrela Hall, a building donated by Queen Maria I in the 18th century to foreign communities living in Lisbon. An ironical description in that the “English quarter” was bought by a private British investor And then came the pandemic.
This time the stage is borrowed. It is the Teatro do Bairro and where the cast has congregated for photos. English style furniture, na ashtray, whisky bottle…. and a portrait of Stalin. In the middle of all this Vuk Simic plays around with a tape measure on his head, his character’s main prop as the tailor.
Vuk has been part of the multicultural family of the Lisbon Players for many years: he came to Portugal from Serbia at the end of the 90s in search of Amália. Yes, that one, Rodrigues. He didn’t find her, but the trip led him in other directions: he fell in love with Lisbon and discovered this company, where he has had great fun performing over the years.
Entretanto, o trabalho de intérprete obrigou-o a regressar à Sérvia, mas volta à cidade do fado sempre que pode. Onze anos depois da última atuação, An Englishman Abroad marca o seu regresso aos palcos, e Vuk não podia estar mais feliz.
Marco Fernandes é a mais recente aquisição da companhia. Recém-chegado a Lisboa de África do Sul e português do lado paterno, Marco sempre quisera vir para a capital portuguesa, mas não sabia como continuar a sua carreira artística – até que encontrou a Lisbon Players, onde conheceu a atriz Celia Williams, mãe de Elizabeth Bochmann, que brinca com o chapéu ao estilo russo da sua personagem.
É ela quem melhor pode contar a história do grupo. Nos anos 1980, era uma jovem atriz inglesa chegada a Lisboa do Brasil, onde estivera durante uns tempos. Vinha acompanhar o marido,