For those who saw the inaugural performance of Guadalajara’s new Festival de Cabaret last Friday, it was clear that this theatrical to-do’s calling isn’t just to provide the public with a good time full of delectable transgression and hilarity —
it’s also a call to arms, an impassioned rebuke to hatred, fear, ignorance, and to the violence and discrimination towards people of different persuasions bred by those three soul-rotting elements. In that sense, the festival as a whole serves cabaret’sprimary purpose, which is, at least in the opinion of the festival’s main star, to act as a kind of pitiless Greek Chorus, telling society the unvarnished truth about itself.
At the tip of this anti-bigotry flying V is Cesar Enriquez, who opened the festival with his solo show, “Pritty Gouman,” a jaw-dropping exercise in sustained stage presence, wit, timing, memorization, dancing, singing, ruthless piss-taking, soul-bearing honesty and sheer physical endurance.
Enriquez, a Mexico City born-and-bred veteran of theatrical performance, is involved in the festival not only in his capacity as an entertainer, but also as a teacher; a key centerpiece of the two-week-long affair is a five-day clinic led by him, held at the headquarters of the Teatro Experimental de Jalisco in Parque Agua Azul.
“To be precise, cabaret is a theatrical genre that involves farce, an element of the didactic, humor, political dissidence, and satire,” Enriquez explained to me while the ten participating students — most of whom have a background in theater — filed past and out the door.
“It also,” he added, “has to contain a certain posture, a position, towards one or more social problems.”
The social critique aspect of cabaret performance was ably and discreetly woven into his show, the central character of which is a transexual prostitute from Veracruz. Over the course of about two hours, several musical numbers (including Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”) and numerous costume changes, Enriquez deftly inserted pointed jabs at what he considers Mexican society’s ill treatment of the LGBTQ community.