Well, I finally got out of the neighborhood and saw a little of what is going on in this town. I met some friends at a place in the Calle Ballesta area just behind the Gran Vía. This street was for many years for being a haven for smalltime prostitution and was lined with both brothels and disinterested women smoking while waiting for a customer. This has all begun to change, in the same way it has in many other neighboring streets. What used to be image of decadent downtown sleaziness, has now become swank and fashionable. There is still a odd mixture of ladies of the night and fusion cuisine upscale restaurants, but I think many people like it that way.
Anyway, we went to this new place called the Microteatro Por Dinero, where you can pay 3 euros to see a short theatrical work that is no longer than 15 minutes long. The size of the “theater” is miniscule, really just a room, and normally holds no more than 10-15 people. There are six plays to choose from which are performed 5 times every evening, and because of their short length, you can catch more than one in a visit. While you wait or your play, you can chat and sip a beer at the bar, of course, this is Madrid. Then they call you when it’s time to start and you go downstairs and through a long narrow hallway which would appeal to a psychopath looking for a place to keep his screaming victims. Then they stick you in a room and…let the show begin.
Our play was about a young piano student in post-war Spain who spies his aging but still voluptuous teacher as she undresses. Then she catches him and seduces him. The play was all right but nothing out of this world, she was quite convincing while actor looked like, well, he was acting (ouch), but the real eye-catcher was the setup. We didn’t sit down. We stood a peered through the open slats of some blinds, which obviously made us voyeurs too!
The original idea from what I gather came from an experimental project called “Por Dinero” (for money) in which a similar idea was done in a nearby renovated former house of ill-repute. It was put on for two days and there were 20 shows performed in the rooms. The idea was immensely successful, so they turned it into a permanent place, but in a building right around the corner on the Calle Loreto y Chicote, 9.
Each month has a theme, February’s is ‘sex’, so there is reason to go back often. It also has an offer of children’s plays which are performed Saturdays and Sundays in the morning. I’ll have to take my girls to see what that’s like and will report back.
And, if you need a little nourishment, there are plenty of restaurants around. A nice-priced choice is the new Al Cuadrado Taglio Italian restaurant, Calle Ballesta 10, which is owned by two Belgian cooks, and which specializes in a wide variety of tasty pizzas by the kilo! Good stuff. Give it a shot.