The Algarve is a region renowned for its artistic flair. Its natural beauty attracts musicians, artists, dancers and similar like-minded souls, yet it is surprising how few venues there are to showcase these talents. The team behind Mãozorra aims to help fill that void.
By David Lugg
Founded in 2013, their main objective is to encourage creativity by promoting workshops and public performance. In 2021, they transformed the old primary school at Barão de São Miguel into a theatre for cultural events. The Teatro de Marionetas (as it is known) held its first show in November and now hosts a regular, eclectic mix of talent from the Algarve and beyond.
João Costa is the artistic director of Mãozorra and, as he points out, they are starting to see the benefits of their hard work. “People are very happy as we are promoting local artists but we have also been able to bring in national and international artists – all of a very high quality.”
A glance at their recent calendar of events confirms this – classical musicians, spoken word performance and improvisation nights to name but a few. They hold workshops once a month and, when the weather allows, there is an amphitheatre at the back that can seat up to two hundred people.
Tickets for each show cost a suggested contribution of five euros for adults and three euros for children, making it extremely good value for money. What’s more, Mãozorra is a non-profit organisation. At each performance, the team prepares an appetising dish of the day made from local products. Portions are plentiful and inexpensive.
Despite the struggles of the pandemic, João has been reluctant to increase costs and is keen to acknowledge the funding that the association has received. “We have had help from the Programa Garantir Cultura (a government initiative to help fund the arts) and two of our team are employed through European funding.”
João has certainly taken a hands-on approach to the project throughout its inception. His artistic direction has extended to repainting the theatre, running the website and even assisting with the cooking. With a background of graphic design and five years spent teaching visual arts to secondary school students, you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
As you enter the theatre, your eye is immediately drawn to the attention to detail. The foyer doubles up as a dining area but is beautifully presented, the walls adorned with a plethora of local artefacts like fado shoes and classical guitars (specially added for tonight’s show). Low mood lighting fills the main performance room whilst candlelit tables complement the ambience.
Tonight, the theatre is buzzing with activity and fervour as we are treated to a wonderful performance of fado by Ana Sofia Marques. She exudes passion and charm in equal measures, offering just the right level of interaction with the audience. A collective smile is etched upon everyone’s faces as she reminds us, “Fado can make us feel both happy and sad.”
This is, after all, what live performance is all about: a medium to provide us with emotions, to educate and to entertain us. Oscar Wilde regarded theatre as ‘the greatest of all art forms’ and a place where one ‘can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being’. I doubt that he passed Barão de São Miguel on his grand tour, but the fine folk at Mãozorra certainly understand the philosophy. They have created a community theatre that is not only a delight but an important platform for artists and punters alike. I urge you to go and see it for yourself.