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Black Box Theatre - Marbella (Malaga)

A black box in which culture is turned on its head and reclaims its rightful place in the world. A black box that contains not just a school, but also a gallery, theatre and a café. You’ll also find dozens of people in search of the unknown and waiting to be surprised. Let the show begin!

By: Cecilia Bogaard

Theatre / multidisciplinary artistic space
Location: Marbella (Málaga)
Birth: 2007
Stands out for: bringing alternative culture and events to Marbella
Capacity: 100 in the theatre and 50-60 in the café-teatro
Director: Shia Arbulú, Susana Crespo and José Luis Garro
Did you know? their seats were rescued from an old Catalan cinema

José Luis Garro and Shia Arbulu took the leap and dared to open a theatre in the cultural desert that is the Costa del Sol. They don’t think of themselves as heroes, just “senseless fools”. After a week of working with students of contemporary dance, capoeira, pilates, aerial acrobatics, juggling and even creative sculpture, Saturday night arrives. What they most enjoy is live performance and theatre, and so this is the moment of truth.

Arbulu watched Marbella grow from her base in Madrid. In her short but frequent trips to the Malaga coast she began to feel a public demand for a richer cultural offering by residents and visitors from abroad. “Marbella was undergoing a transformation. It was no longer a holiday town”, she comments. She and Garro had worked together in theatres in Madrid. Garro had left to work in Germany, but bought a one-way-ticket back and they met in Marbella.

Their stage, café-theatre, and exhibition space has welcomed a wide range of artists: from well-known national theatre companies to small independent musicians. When you walk into the Black Box Theatre, be prepared to rub shoulders with a culture that thrives under neon lights and that has yet to be discovered. When asked which were their most exciting events Garro highlights Angela, a reflection of the spirit and essence of the theatre. “Anhela is the experiment by a group of Spaniards in Berlin, a fresh band that mixes together theatre, copla and bolero. Having them here and watching the audience reaction was a fantastic experience”.

Black Box Theatre was created without any public funding. “Theatres in Spain survive because of funding. Maybe we are a little pretentious, but we’ve managed to do all of this using our own resources”, explains Garro. Her initial dream was to create a space exclusively for independent theatre, but she was forced to reconsider. “We’re finding it hard to survive and so we’re taking the project in a number of directions including courses, theatre, dance and music. We also rent the space out as a venue”, explains Arbulu. “Our project doesn’t fit into the plans of the ministries and public institutions because we want to invest our money into artistic products rather than infrastructure”.

They still haven’t found the key to getting their public out of the house and into the theatre. “We want to offer an alternative. We don’t like the world of advertising and don’t want to bombard people with propaganda. We’re from a more cultural background”, clarifies Garro. Their biggest obstacle? A lack of information. “There is actually more of a cultural scene on offer on the Costa del Sol than people think. The problem is a lack of informational infrastructure, the mechanisms needed to let people know what you have to offer. The bigger newspapers and media don’t want to promote culture in Marbella. We just need a little more time to convince them”, they conclude.

Garro has his very own theory: “A thriving cultural scene is inversely proportional to economic wealth”. According to him, the crisis has woken up a hibernating culture. They are a little crazy and maybe they are senseless fools. Personally I believe there is more sense to what they are doing than they think. But in the end, while the lights of their theatre still go on each night in the centre of Marbella, who cares?