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What I Know (About What My Grandfather Didn’t Know)

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Four stars

Revolution is a family affair in Sonia Gardes’ very personal solo piece, in which she excavates her own ancestry to discover the umbilical links that stem from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to her own Occupy-inspired activism. Under the banner of her Objectora company, Gardes does this using a mixture of story-telling, puppetry and projections of old photographs. Despite the title, the focus of this is actually Gardes’ great grand-father, whose runaway adventures inside the anarchist movement in Spain left its mark on the family he left behind to the extent that even talking about him was considered taboo.

Several generations on, Gardes is squaring up to the uncomfortable truths of the void her great-grandfather left, along with the accidental influences on her own righteous anger. As she embodies the spirit of him through a puppet which looms large even when not being operated, Gardes has fun with her family tree, despite the long-term consequences of her great grand-father’s errant actions. In one sequence, she fantasises about some idyllic family reunion that would only ever have happened this way if the story had been turned into a Hollywood movie.

Gardes’ unearthing of her personal history comes at a crucial point in history. The Spanish Civil War was meant to do away with fascism, but with the far right on the rise, old wounds are being reopened and new battles set in motion. Meanwhile, the very visible direct action of Extinction Rebellion has burst onto the streets in an attempt to force those in power to stop sanctioning the destruction of the planet by other means. In terms of a personal purging too, Gardes has helped galvanise her own campaigning spirit to show where she has come from, reclaiming her history to illustrate not only how much a part of it she is, but to help drive it forward to future struggles.

The Herald, April 22nd 2019

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