AWARDS

Best Experimental Theatre Director,2003    
Mexican Association of Theatre Critics

                         Best Group Theatre, 2003  
Theatre Journalist Association Brighton


PRESS SYNTHESIS


An astonishingly amusing film when interpreted by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes. The actors wear monochromatic (i.e. black and white) make up to smoothly partner the black and white images on the screen. They stand either side and lip-synch to the soundless action taking place but nothing prepares for how funny it all is.As the language heard moves from Spanish through English via Japanese to mere made up sounds it is a veritable Monty P. moment when a crooked hood of a character leaves a room mumbling 'Sayonara' in a boots octave female voice. You had to be there!The synching is absolutely brilliant and made this nearly ninety-year-old piece of history (not me, the film) vibrant and entertaining in a completely honest and unforced way.
Brilliant. 

David Bowie 

The High Line Festival, New York USA,May 12 / 07


A war-free interesting performance was The Grey Automobile from Mexico, which sought to revive the great Japanese Benshi tradition of silent film narration. The show takes its name from a Mexican vintage silent movie directed by Enrique Rosas in 1919 and based on the real story of a ruthless gang which terrorised Mexico in 1915. While the film is shown on a screen which takes up the whole stage, two Mexican actors with an Arabic translator narrate the story and dramatise all the parts in a hilarious mixture of Spanish, English and Arabic, and are accompanied by a Mexican pianist playing a concoction of Japanese and Mexican silent movie scores. The most intriguing aspect ofThe Grey Automobile, however, was the fact that while the pianist was obviously a man, one could not be certain of the sexes of the narrators; they were so vocally versatile and mimicked male and female voices with equal competence. And even when they stepped in sight, in a brief interlude to perform a funny song and dance, they were so comically disguised, one in white face and kimonoed, the other in a black dress, hat and veil, Mexican style, that you could not tell their real sex. It was puzzling and exciting and gave one a real theatrical thrill. They seemed to represent a neuter sort of performer who can easily take on the character of male or female and switch from one to the other at a moment's notice. As I watched them, I found myself thinking that perhaps all true performers in the past, in the days of ancient Greece and Shakespeare's times, belonged to this sort and the idea was comforting.

Nehad Selaiha

BAl-Ahram Weekly Online, El Cairo´s International Experimental Theatre Festival,  El Cairo, Sep 28 Oct 4 / 06


The performance of The Grey Automobile by the Certain Inhabitants Theatre in the Angela Peralta Theatre was innovative and different. The proposal was a splendid combination of aesthetic vocal and dramatic mockery, music and the silent movie. By reinventing the Japanese narrative tradition known as Benshi, Akiko Iida and Fabrina Melon gave voice to more than 50 characters in the silent film ¿The Grey Automobile¿, providing an hilarious wealth of new meanings to one of the most significant national films.

Talía Rodríguez

Noroeste, Mazatlán, Nov 5 / 05


A ritual scenic act.
This is what is offered thanks to the creative, interesting and laudable proposal from the Certain Inhabitants¿ Theatre. More than an eclectic art (of intermediate postures) we find ourselves before an expression of various artistic signatures in a single expressive form.And, more than an act of syncretism, we have synergetic art, that is; the action of two or mores causes whose result is greater than the addition of the effects. That is; the final result surpasses the components, even though these components in themselves are full artistic expressions. Above all, the voices of the actors.The performance is, was and essentially is an ingenious and amusing combination of various artistic expressions. Those who saw it in the Mélico Salazar theatre applauded enthusiastically.

William Venegas

La Nación, San José, Nov 29 / 04


The Grey Automobile is one of the discoveries at this years Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro, in Bogota.

Rudiger Schaper

Der Tagesspiegel, Bogota April 22 / 2004


A chimerical show.
The curtain opens over a screen. There is a piano on the right, under the stage. Are we about to watch a silent movie with musical accompaniment, such as it was the case in the beginnings of cinema? Actually, this time, there is more to it than that. This is about the peculiar and fascinating blend of Benshi- a rather sophisticated Japanese tradition-and a manifestation of popular art. What the organisers of the Festival de L¿Imaginaire have in store for us this week, is a very special and interesting product. It is a complex work, a chimera born in the imagination of Claudio Valdes Kuri, musician and theatre director, who joins the stage as an English language narrator, altogether with the other members of his company Certain Inhabitants¿ Theatre: Deborah Silberer, piano; Fabrina Melon, French language narrator; Enrique Arreola, Spanish language narrator; and the extraordinary and dazzling Irene Akiko Iida, gracefully frail as a porcelain doll, Japanese Benshi in splendid ceremonial attire, with traditional make-up and her enthralling virtuoso voice.Although the original film, as Rosas had conceived it, could not make it into our days (he died, untimely, in 1920), Claudio Valdés Kuri got hold of a pretty good copy of it. It has good rhythm and feeling, black and white high quality cinematography, humour, suspense, and that irresistible blend of truth and reconstruction. In a few words, the result is a weird and wonderful atmosphere that seduces us.The performance takes place in the Maison des cultures du monde, on a warm stage. Although the film is in itself outstanding, and the participants all do their job, the most amazing performance is that of Irene Akiko Iida, who displays the perfect art of Benshi with a strange and gossamer-like musicality, and adds a touch of special refinement to the spectacle. But also, she bestows us with her humour.There is a certain amusing quality to the film, which Certain Inhabitants¿ Theatre, faithful to Enrique Rosas¿s will, has managed to preserve. At the same time, the production succeeds in bridging the gap between just a show and a magical and charming moment.

Armelle Heliot

Le Figaro, Paris, March 29 / 04


The Grey Automobile provides the inspiration to enjoy an unusual theatrical experience a particular staging of a combination of the Marx Brothers, Gilbert & Sullivan incorporating an early Japanese film tradition. The event devised by an avant-garde theatrical director from Mexico City, Claudio Valdés Kuri, is slapstick, surrealist, charming and light-hearted.
The performance quickly jumps the rails into sublime zaniness. But this description fails to do justice to the technical virtuosity of the verbal performers. For long stretches, they create perfect lip-synch with the actors on screen while talking at breakneck speed, never missing a cue or a beat; what they do is so difficult, and done so effortlessly, that it suggests a Zen-like identification with the material. I avoid clichés like "You've never seen anything like this before," but the fact is, you haven't.

Roger Ebert

Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, July 13 / 03


Languages went from Japanese to Spanish to English with dizzying rapidity, as Scott Joplin was cranked out on an upright piano.The evening ever was not conventional. One doesn't typically see a Japanese actress from a Mexican theatre company playing numerous characters in a blood-and-guts movie on an epic scale somewhat akin to D.W. Griffith's roughly contemporaneousIntolerance. If the best internationalist theatre always probes border and boundary crossings, Mexico¿s Certain Inhabitants¿ Theatre spills over and across so many aesthetic parameters, it makes you dizzy. And best of all, this company imbues its substantial piece of highly original performance work with a palpable sense of fun. Certain Inhabitants¿ hugely entertaining and provocative version of Automóvil pays homage to the Japanese tradition of Benshi.Ultimately one leaves marvelling at the way cinema unified and confounded languages. In their wacky, arty polyglot, Certain Inhabitants end up speaking in a universal tongue and confusing everything.

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune, Chicago, July 13 / 03


The past and present meet happily in the stage performance of The Grey Automobile, thanks to the unlimited creativeness of the Certain Inhabitants¿ Theatre from Mexico, directed by Claudio Valdés Kuri, and which was the closing event on Sunday of the XVIII International Hispanic Theatre Festival.Two years ago the Mexican company surprised the public at the festival with De monstruos y prodigios about the castrati and now they have recovered a silent movie to integrate the cinema, theatre, music and dance in a spectacular merger.Besides resucitating Japanese Benshi and recreating a Mexican silent movie classic, the young Valdés Kuri and his company have created an innovative and amusing theatrical show and we anxiously await his next surprise.

Norma Niurka

Nuevo Herald, Miami, June 25 / 03


Sustained energy and multiple, carefully detailed transitions, plus characterizations embellished by a subtle sense of rhythm.The main strategy for these young artists lies in their use of the game between theatre once again reverting to playacting, in the irony of counterpoint, in the beauty of an image, in the expertise of the interpreter, in the subtlety of the dramatic score- where tradition and modernity overlap, questioning and sarcasm, poetry and synthesis. Theatrical strategy.  At least, the substance of good theatre.

Esther María Hernández

Nuevo Herald, Miami, June 18 / 03


In approaching the film the commentators use many strategies. They begin with a certain logic and by the end it turns into delicious nonsense as it enters the absurd. All that turns this show in an ingenious and enjoyably amusing presentation.

Javier Miranda

Diario de Cádiz, Festival Iberoamericano de Cádiz, Oct 22 / 02


What does a Japanese actress wearing a kimono do in this play? We never find out but nevertheless the performance is thoroughly enjoyable. The voices, from the head thug, the idiot of the gang, to the desperate complaints of the victims, are so well interpreted by Irene Akiko at the speed of the silent film, in a language that is as internationally understandable as in the comics.Claudio Valdés Kuri¿s fascination for the Benshigenre led him to create this fabulous show of film-theatre-performance.

Andreas Schäfer

Berliner Zeitung, Berlín, Oct 7 / 02


An excellent interpretation by Claudio Valdés Kuri is presented at the Festival MEX.artes.berlin.

Christiane Kühl

Tageszeitung, Berlin, Oct 6 / 02


We take a Mexican silent film classic, that is very famous in that country but which nobody here knows anything about. Then, a forgotten Japanese technique, the Benshi,in which live actors gave the audience a running commentary on silent films from any part of the world. A young Mexican theatre group, comprised of two actresses, a pianist and a director. The result: an ideal exportation product, The Grey Automobile. It works even without understanding the language. It works because the action is simple.  It works because the narrators and the pianist know exactly how to use their voices and sounds.

Christina Tilmann

HKW, Berlin, Oct 3 / 02


To transgress the borders of language- any language- is always risky, because one can never really be sure if by so doing one may risk losing the very essence of that which one wishes to express. In the end, our transgression intends to create vibrations by going beyond permissible limits through creative provocation but with a clear, determined objective. Thus, in order to travel down this path, it is indispensable to have perfectly structured ideas and outlines, so as not to fall into  a simplistic posture of an inarticulate, vain provocation.There should also be ample vision of the diverse tasks to be tackled so that what is meant to be explored in this new formula can be achieved, especially when it is concerned with one of the classics of Mexican Silent Movies , one that has survived many diverse events, namely, The Grey Automobile.Through its ludicrous vocal aesthetics, full of polyphonies that go from the absurd and comedian to the tragic and the most sordid, this mise-en-scene has an undisputable provocative character to its proposal, taking the spoken word and discourse to its limits,  a visual synthesis rich in form and contrast and in which both languages fuse in such a way that it is impossible to remain unmoved by what happens on the stage as well as what occurs on the screen.

Moñe Adalid

El Heraldo, Mexico City, Oct 4 / 02


With only three productions under his belt, Claudio Valdés Kuri has achieved a privileged position within the theatre world in Mexico. With Monsters and Prodigies, he confirmed his familiarity with the rules of the theatre by playing with them to construct dramatic works, which unintentionally break the corsets of theatrical structure to create a new language.Valdés Kuri brings up to date the most popular arts of yesteryear and sets them in a different context. But this is not a case of artistic archaeology; rather, it is done with an aim to revive those artistic expressions, with a sense of renewal and an interest in the combination of tradition with new theatrical languages.As a contemporary creator, he knows he can neither forget nor erase tradition entirely. Intelligently, he does not fight this heritage; he uses it as a tool to strengthen the development of his own language and of an absolutely contemporary approach.In The Grey Automobile, Valdés Kuri combines cinema and theatre. By introducing live actors against the background of a film projection gives  a different significance to theatre and a much more intimate feeling to cinema. Without a doubt, The Grey Automobile is a finely made play that reflects the talent of one of the great young directors of Mexican theatre.

Juan Hernández

Unomásuno, Mexico City, Sept 4 / 02


The narrators build a fantastic theatrical discourse. And if this were not enough, music fans will enjoy the expressiveness of the scores brought to life on the piano.

Eleonora Rodríguez Lara

Cambio, Mexico City, Aug 18 / 02


There is no grey here.
Who would have thought that thanks to Claudio Valdés Kuri¿s histrionic magic, I¿d travel back in time? Well into the 21st Century, the director decided to shake up the audience, taking them back to the silent film era. With admirable vocal dexterity, Sofía González de Leon and Irene Akiko Iida, with the consistent support of pianist Ernesto Gómez Santana, gave voice to each character - in Japanese, Spanish, English, a bit of French, a smattering of German, with Spanish, Cuban and Mexico City accents. Furthermore, they made the sounds of dogs, cats, chickens, trains, doors, a few bells and revolver shots. And, not satisfied with brilliantly having made us laugh and reflect, after the intermission - that today almost nobody remembers that this used to happen at the movies- they danced, sang and gave the audience the complete experience of seeing a live accompanied film. They trapped the Sunday theatregoers in a delicious and fantastical evening.Valdés Kuri is an old friend of Monterrey, most recently through his extraordinary production of Becket or the Honour of Godand of Monsters and Prodigies. And althoughThe Grey Automobile has nothing to do with those productions, the result this time was every bit as satisfying as on the other occasions.

Silvia Ruano

El Norte, Monterrey, Aug 13 / 02


With no more theatrical elements than the voices of the Benshis and the rhythmic effects of the piano, this production submerges the spectator in an entirely original and entertaining story, managing to unite cinema and theatre through the virtues of the two narrators, who work the potential of their voices from beginning to end.Claudio Valdés Kuri, who with his production De Monstruos y Prodigios demonstrated his ability to unite apparently irreconcilable elements onstage and his capacity to dramatically narrate a century of history, offers here a more austere production but not a less interesting one. He directs two vocal virtuosos, includes a talented pianist and allows the spectator to live the bicultural experience, with echoes of the past and of the present.

Ximena Escalante

Primera Fila, Reforma, Mexico City, Aug 9 / 02


Valdés Kuri is supported in his experiment by the musician Ernesto Gómez Santana, who plays both Mexican and Japanese piano music of the era and his own compositions, and by the two actresses Sofía González de León (the Mexican Benshi) and Irene Akiko Iida (the Japanese Benshi). And any attempt at experimenting with performance aesthetics is welcome as long as it is as well done as this production, unlike many other poorly performed experiments.During the first part, Irene Akiko begins by dubbing all the characters in Japanese, although in different tones of voice, and Sofía González de León then takes over in Spanish. After an intermission and after a humorous imitation of the vaudeville of the era (in which they used dances, songs and magic acts in the cinemas, in addition to showing  the film) the experiment really takes off: there is barking during a fight scene, the music highlights and sometimes contradicts what¿s happening onscreen, like that Japanese melody in a typical Mexican setting;they speak English to give voice to the Americans in the film and never fall into excess. It is a very good experiment, and I have no idea whatever its consequences may be.

Olga Harmony

La Jornada, Mexico City, Aug 8 / 02


A clear demonstration of the best way to educate the voice. They gave colour to the interpretation of the images. It was a delight to observe such narrators as these. Through them, the public admired and understood such a complicated task as interpreting and giving sound to those ancient silent films.

Alejandro Danielli

 MVS Noticias, Mexico City, Aug 2 / 02


With this new project, Claudio Valdés Kuri, once again demonstrates his enormous creative talent, within a show that does not repeat anything from his two previous works.

Salvador Perches Galván

Unomásuno, Mexico City, Aug 1 / 02

A cutting-edge original idea for the theatre. The rhythmic sense of the play, its cadence and finally the demands on   its audience made The Grey Automobile a unique production.

Susana Zepeda

Vanguardia, Saltillo, July 25 / 02


An explosive and entertaining interpretation of the Benshi.
The Grey Automobile caused commotion, preference and explosiveness among the theatre-loving public.The voices of Sofía González de León and Irene Akiko Iida surprised the spectator by their precision and hilarity. An interpretation that was theatrical, operatic, cinematographic and humorous. Ernesto Gómez Santana projected an extraordinary musical sound.

Sigifredo López

  El Diario de Coahuila, Saltillo, July 24 / 02


Enchanting and surprising Film-Theatre Production
The result enchants and at the same time surprises. What Claudio Valdés Kuri did with this film is not just a historic remake for specialists, it is a modern and agile production for the general public, in which we find humour, song and drama intertwined. It is a memorable experience in which the old and the new combine brilliantly.

Luis Bernardo Pérez

Ovaciones, Mexico City, July 23 / 02


A curiously exciting, unique and important play..

Juan Carlos Valdéz

Radio Imer, Mexico City, July 22 / 02

 

A surprising result¿ what these actresses do is totally revolutionary as they perform true marvels on stage. Amusing, touching, surprising and new are but a few of the words one can use to describe this production.

Manuel Lino

El Economista, Mexico City, July 19 / 02