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Reviewed by:
  • Coronada y el toro by Francisco Nieva
  • Carey Kasten (bio)
Francisco Nieva, Coronada y el toro, ed. Komla Aggor. Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2020. Pp. 99 + 4 b/w illus. $17.99.

Despite his undeniably important role in Spanish theatre, Francisco Nieva remains understudied both in Spain and abroad. An accomplished playwright and set designer, Nieva enjoyed a certain degree of fame from 1976, the year after Francisco Franco's death, until the early 1990s. His staged plays attracted critical attention, and he received prestigious national awards. Today, however, many students of both European theater and Spanish letters are unfamiliar with his contributions. For this reason, Komla Aggor's new critical edition of Coronada y el toro—which premiered in 1982 at Madrid's María Guerrero Theatre—is so important. No stand-alone editions of this play have been issued since the mid-eighties, and the most recent publication of the text, from 2007, appeared in the impressive Obra completa edited by Juan Francisco Peña. The portability of Aggor's edition, complete with its accessible introduction, makes it perfect for classroom assignments or theatre students interested in diving into Nieva's rich and complex universe.

In addition to the text of Coronada in Spanish, Aggor provides an English-language introduction and a useful bibliography for any scholar interested in continuing to research Nieva's work. The bulk of Aggor's thematic analysis of the play appears in the 45-page introduction, whereas the direct annotations of Nieva's text focus mainly on language. Four black and white illustrations appear throughout the book: two of Nieva's drawings related to Coronada and two photographs from the 1982 staging. The introduction begins with a look at Spanish theatre history from the 1930s through the late 1990s in order to situate Nieva's career in the broader landscape of Spanish culture. Aggor underscores how uncompromising Nieva was in his writing throughout his career, scripting theater during Francoism and its censorship that remained an imagined escape of unpublishable and unperformable possibilities. The transition to democracy in the mid to late 1970s afforded Nieva a brief moment of fame, before the election of the PSOE (Spain's socialist party) in 1982, which ironically resulted in diminished support for avant-garde theater. Aggor's analysis here is straight-forward, nuanced and informed, providing useful direction to researchers eager to understand Nieva's work in context.

The second part of the introduction delves into Nieva's aesthetic universe, examining both his influences and his own manifestoes on style. Aggor's references to the Postismo movement that Nieva was a part of in the 1940s as well [End Page 528] as his own "poética teatral" guide the reader in understanding Nieva's "estética del delito" (aesthetics of crime) and the way he combines verbal and visual dexterity and dynamism. Aggor wisely includes an artistic depiction Nieva produced of his own "teatro furioso" (one of several categories Nieva divides his oeuvre into and the category into which Coronada falls) to underscore how integrated text and image are for Nieva.

The third section of the introduction analyzes Coronada y el toro's sources, its 1982 staging, and certain thematic elements of the play. Aggor's clear and illuminating discussion of the conception of time and the popular in Coronada are broadly applicable to much of Nieva's teatro furioso and provide the reader with an essential apparatus to confront the difficult language and often disorienting sense of time and space in Coronada. By far the longest section of the introduction deals with gender in Coronada. Aggor points to the lack of critical engagement with "this play's thematic centrepiece, namely, Coronada's struggle as a woman and her role as the voice of justice" (32). Aggor perceptively identifies how even the scholarship on Coronada has fallen victim to patriarchal concepts so deeply embedded in Spanish society so as not to address head on "Nieva's feminist project" (38). As he sets out to correct this lacuna, Aggor relies on theories of female spectatorship to demonstrate how Nieva's forward-thinking approach empowers female characters to confront deep-seated societal inequities. While Aggor acknowledges...


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pp. 528-530
Launched on MUSE
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