History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Early Spanish 21st

Juan Mayorga

Juan Mayorga showed how a local man bullies an immigrant into domestic mistakes, 2018

Included among noteworthy Spanish plays of the early 21st century is "Animales nocturnos" (The insomniacs, or more precisely Nocturnal animals, 2003) by Juan Mayorga (1965-?).

“The shorter characters (Bajo, Baja) are locals, while the taller characters (Alto, Alta) are immigrants…Through the blackmail of Alto, Bajo is able to perform a kind of violence that is more dangerous and painful than physical violence, because it begins to crush the identity of a person. This blackmail is such that it aims to destroy the core of Alto’s agency, thus dehumanizing and animalizing him...The fact that Alto is nocturnal because he works at night leads him to be observed constantly by Bajo...Alta not only recognizes that her husband has become a slave but also understands why Baja always has a look of defeat. Baja’s lack of communication with her husband is exacerbated by the presence of Alto. Alta’s ultimatum...demonstrates that her marriage is not as stable as even she thought it was…The play’s final scene closes the possibility for Alto to ever escape his slavery, because Baja, made aware that her husband uses Alto to do the things on the ‘list of things I want to do that I can’t do with her’, decides that she will use him for the same purpose. The final lines of the play demonstrate the development of this new relationship...This finale is an echo of the end of Scene 1, in which Bajo establishes the terms of his domination of Alto. Here much of the same rhetoric is used to submit Alto to the power of Baja. For example, in the antepenultimate sentence Bajo establishes that Alto is his possession and thus dancing with Baja is an order, not a request. Bajo’s expressions ‘she won’t ask for anything ugly, or degrading, nothing humiliating’ mitigate Alto’s desire to escape from the situation. However, being submitted to a second master is definitely humiliating and dehumanizing. The play ends with Alta about to catch her train to escape, indicative of the permanent loss of Alto’s humanity…The play conveys a sense of hopelessness with regard to the immigrants’ situation. The law is so limiting that it is capable of enabling the premeditated enslavement that we witness in the play. There seems to be no way to stop the tragic ending because Alto himself plays into the slavery under which he is bound. Even Alta, though she is quite happy to be leaving, must undergo the process of uprooting and a new cultural negotiation wherever she ends up going. Her flight from the city is tragic in that she was not able to establish herself there as a result of the threat of Bajo’s blackmail” (Coleman, 2019 pp 4-14).

"Nocturnal animals"

The hedgehog knows only one thing, but it may be enough
The fox knows many things, but is it enough?

Time: 2000s. Place: Spain

Text at ?

Bajo, a short man, accosts Alto, a tall man, to reveal that he knows about his status as an illegal immigrant, but yet promises to keep this information secret provided the man does what he says, mainly to serve him as a companion to talk with. Alto is told by his wife, Alta, that a man with a hat flirted with her, but he is unfazed. Alto next meets Bajo at the zoo, where they discuss the habits of nocturnal animals, such as the hedgehog. Bajo cites from from the "Thousand and One Nights" a saying derived from a Greek lyric poet, Archilochus (c. 680–c. 645 BC), whereby "The fox knows many things, the hedgehog only one, but of utmost importance". Baja, wife to Bajo, is an insomniac in the habit of listening to late-night television programs meant to help insomniacs, loud enough to disturb Alto and Alta living in the apartment below. Alta receives the visit of Bajo to repair an electric disturbance in her apartment. While poking around for the source of the problem, he enters their bedroom and touches the bed. Worried about his attitude, she goes over to her husband's place of work as a night-time orderly in a hospital and mentions their neighbor's visit, at which time Alto reveals the nature of his relation with Bajo, one he feels is under control. Alta disagrees, because she considers Bajo as a disquieting figure. She threatens to leave the apartment with or without her husband. One day, Alta meets the Baja in a park and speaks about her husband. Baja asks her what she can do to help. When Alta next meets her husband, they discuss their marital troubles, but to no avail. True to her word, Alta heads for the train station alone to meet a man she had just met. Meanwhile, Alto goes up to Bajo's apartment, where he meets the latter's wife, who wishes to dance with him, much to Bajo's satisfaction, whose marriage problem may thereby be resolved. It is clear that Alto is the fox and Bajo the hedgehog.