Alfredo Noval talks ‘Life is a Dream’: “We’re not afraid of death, we’re afraid of not existing”

The Golden Age of Spanish theatre takes a British turn this week with the arrival of this new production playing for five single performances at London’s Barbican. Guillermo Nazara talks to its lead actor, performing in the role of Segismundo, to learn more about this show bringing back the piece that defined an era.

After being on a national tour, how does it feel to star in such a great Spanish classic at one of the most prestigious theatres in the world?

I feel that I will remember this moment all my life, and I will try to enjoy every verse, every look with my colleagues and every gesture of complicity with the audience.

Is it an added responsibility to perform it in front of a foreign audience?

I think that Life Is A Dream always implies a great responsibility, and even more so when we have the privilege of being able to represent Calderon – to take his questions, so relevant today, to international stages.

Now that it is being performed internationally for the first time, will there be any difference in comparison to your previous performances?

We have learned with Declan and Nick that each performance must be different. That’s how we approach the show every night, and we believe in their formula so much that we expect it to be that way. I think the real difference, in this case, is how the audience will receive the proposal during the performance, and how that will modify something in the actors, therefore enriching the show.

What is new in this production compared to others?

I think there are many elements that make this show new – and we owe the vast majority of them to Declan and Nick. If I had to choose one, I would say that the horizontality with which we have treated the characters – showing their more human side. We make the audience empathize in a more natural way so they can identify with their fears, their concerns, etc.

What challenges do you face both in building and bringing to life a character that’s been around for 400 years?

From the first moment, Declan taught us that we all hide our own Segismundo, out of shame, fear or the fear of showing ourselves naked to the world. Connecting with that part of me, finding my Segismundo, where I had hidden him, has been and will continue to be a challenge every night onstage – until the last performance, I hope.

Honor, destiny, the quest for freedom – are we still connected to the play’s themes today?

We could talk for hours about how those three concepts have evolved over time, but I think they all connect directly to a question that is still relevant today: “What is life?”. They connect to that wake-up call to the world, that “Hello, I’m here” so necessary today to feel like we exist. As Declan often says, “We’re not afraid of death, we’re afraid of not existing.”

Is there any parallelism between Sigismund and today’s society?

I think there is great parallelism between the questions that Calderon raises through Segismundo and the questions that human beings ask themselves every morning nowadays. The great existentialist questions are maintained throughout time.

Is life a dream?

That’s a very good question. I think nobody knows. People suffer, die, there are wars, atrocities occur daily… I think that what we are living does not seem like a dream, at least not as we would like to dream it.

Why watch this montage of Life Is A Dream?

I believe that, under the direction of Declan and Nick, we have built a show far from that museum style that usually accompanies productions from the Spanish Golden Age. We’re making the audience part of that third character that Calderon poses (the town), and building a scenic language that is as playful as it is close, and even fun, without wasting the philosophical depth that the original text contains.

All pictures credited to Javier Naval.

Life Is A Dream plays at London’s Barbican Theatre from 13 to 16 April. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: