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Life is a Dream
La Vida es Sueño

Life is a Dream
La Vida es Sueño

Written by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
In a version by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
Performed in Spanish with surtitles.

Watch the trailer

A prince chained in a mountain. A young woman disguised as a man in search of vengeance. Revolution, love, murder – but in Life is a Dream, is the real truly real, or is it all just a dream?  

Cheek by Jowl’s first Spanish-language production is Calderón’s astonishing play from the Spanish Golden Age. Directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod, it is performed by an ensemble of Spanish actors.

It comes after many years of bringing Cheek by Jowl’s work to Spain and forming connections and collaborations with Spanish performers and practitioners. Life is a Dream marks the first play from the Golden Age since Donnellan and Ormerod presented their 1989 English-language adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna at the National Theatre in London.

Co-produced by Cheek by Jowl, Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (Spain) and LAZONA; in collaboration with the Barbican, London and Scène Nationale d’ALBI•Tarn, France.

Cheek by Jowl is very grateful to the Embassy of Spain in London for their kind support of La Vida es Sueño and also to Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and to the Instituto Cervantes London.


7–9 May 2024Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, MexicoTickets

Upcoming dates
Haven’t managed to make any of the performances so far? We’re happy to announce that Life is a Dream still has a number of upcoming tour dates in 2024, both in Mexico and Spain. We aren’t quite ready to announce details, but check back soon or follow our social media or newsletters for announcements.

Cast and creative team


Ernesto Arias
Prince Ezeanyim
David Luque
Rebeca Matellán
Manuel Moya
Alfredo Noval
Goizalde Núñez
Antonio Prieto
Irene Serrano

Creative Team

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Assistant DirectorJosete Corral
LightingGanecha Gil
Sound Design and ComposerFernando Epelde
Movement DirectorAmaya Galeote
Dramaturgy AdvisorPedro Víllora
Assistant DesignerAlessio Meloni
Costume AssistantElena Colmenar
Sound AssistantGastón Horischnik
Lighting AssistantJavier Hernandez
PropsSira González
Stage ManagerAlex Stanciu
Technical Director (2022-23)Raúl Sánchez
Technical Director (2023-)Oscar Sainz
Company ManagerElisa Fernández
InterpreterJuan Ollero
Publicity DesignerJavier Naval
Previous performances

Previous Performances

1–2 March 2024Pozuelo de Alarcón, MIRA Teatro, Spain
23–24 February 2024A Coruña, Teatro Rosalía de Castro, Spain
17 February 2024Santiago de Compostela, Auditorio de Galicia, Spain
3–4 February 2024Palma de Mallorca, Teatro Principal, Spain
27 January 2024Murcia, Teatro Romea, Spain
28 December 2023Cuenca, Teatro Auditorio de Cuenca José Luis Perales, Spain
15–16 December 2023Bilbao, Teatro Arriaga Antzokia, Spain
25 Nov–2 Dec 2023Buenos Aires, Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires, Argentina
27–28 October 2023Logroño, Teatro Bretón de los Herreros, Spain
20 October 2023Valdepeñas, el Centro Cultural “La Confianza,” Spain
12–15 October 2023Genoa, Teatro Nazionale Genova, Italy
5 October 2023Vitoria-Gasteiz, Teatro Principal Antzokia (Festival Internacional de Teatro de Vitoria-Gasteiz), Spain
23–27 August 2023Edinburgh, Lyceum Theatre (Edinburgh International Festival), UK
21–22 July 2023Gijón, Teatro Jovellanos, Spain
17–18 July 2023Almada, Teatro Municipal Joaquim Benite, Portugal
9–10 July 2023Barcelona, Teatre Grec (El Grec Festival de Barcelona), Spain
30 June –5 July 2023Almagro, AUREA (Almagro Festival), Spain
15 June 2023Sofia, National Theatre “Ivan Vazov,” Bulgaria
2–3 June 2023Budapest, National Theatre, Hungary
5 May 2023Alicante, Teatro Principal, Spain
13–16 April 2023London, Barbican, UK
9–10 March 2023Albi, Scène Nationale, France
15 Dec 2022–26 Feb 2023Madrid, CNTC Teatro Clásico, Spain
2 December 2022Avilés, Centro Niemeyer, Spain
19–20 November 2022València, Teatro Principal, Spain
12–13 November 2022Valladolid, Teatro Calderón, Spain
22–23 October 2022Girona, Teatro Municipal, Spain
14–16 October 2022Seville, Teatro Lope de Vega, Spain



Fiercely astute… Ormerod’s stunning green-doored design — which remains the backdrop throughout — deftly enables the atmosphere to swing between dream and nightmare.”

The Times

Absorbing, dreamlike.”

The Stage

Declan Donnellan’s direction has its gaze trained on the destabilising horror of Segismundo’s lifelong seclusion and subsequent gaslighting.”


An emerald fever dream of a production… The vision is of a Lynchian nightmare: a single wall lines the back of the stage with the looming emptiness of the Barbican Theatre clad in darkness behind it. Characters appear through doors with Looney Tunes-like surrealism, conjured from the liminal space behind it.”


Blends the optics of a garish dream with unsettling slapstick.”

The Guardian

The show’s cast, an ensemble of only 9 players, is a troupe of masters. They balance the show’s intricate philosophical commentary with comedy which verges on slapstick and performances grounded in realism.”

Theatre Weekly


“A roller-coaster of surprises… Uncomfortable, controversial, brilliant.”


“Exceptional, highly original and surprising… we don’t remember having seen a more original, daring and transgressive staging of Life is a Dream.”

La Última Bambalina  

“Intense brilliance.”

20 Minutos

“Surprises and excites.”

Memorias de un Tiquis Miquis 

“Donnellan exposes the prodigious work of actors. He demands of them a versatility and an intensity that oscillates from the physicality to introspection, from laughter to grief, from lightness to the weight of the chains.”

El Confidencial

“In Donnellan’s production, joy and delicacy contrast intensely with the depth of the tragedy.”

El País 

“Actually makes us reconsider the gravity and the transcendence of Calderón.”

Alfredo Noval (by Javier Naval)
Prince Ezeanyim, Goizalde Núñez, Ernesto Arias, Manuel Moya (by Javier Naval)
Irene Serrano, Manuel Moya (by Javier Naval)
Rebeca Matellán (by Javier Naval)

“Life is an illusion,
a shadow,
a story”

“Donnellan’s production is grounded with agility, audacity and irreverence… the verse resonates more powerfully than ever.”

Prensa Social

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