World Tour: Italy
Nobody's prophet in his own homeland: the new Italian theatre landscape.
In 2014 a new legislative decree has completely changed the Italian theatrical scene: on one hand it has granted to some institutions much more money and it has put a little order in a very complex and fragmented reality; but on the other one this decree has bound some theatres – above all the national ones - in a strict rules web and it has put the independent companies at disadvantage, although some of them are really innovative and well-known, also abroad. Thus this decree has created a new theatrical landscape, dominated by National Theatres and by Theatres of Remarkable Cultural Interest (TRIC), whose aims are mainly to preserve the traditional repertoire and to attract a huge audience, though they’re also compelled to stage every year two brand new plays and to promote contemporary and avant-garde theatre. Practically, National Theatres and TRICs favour classical plays or box-office attractions, stressing the traditional Italian “teatro di regia” (director-dominated theatre).
After Luca Ronconi’s death last February (2015)– he’s been the best Italian director in the last forty years and after Giorgio Strehler – well-known and highly regarded directors are Gabriele Lavia and Franco Branciaroli (both are also actors), Luca De Fusco, Federico Tiezzi, Marco Sciaccaluga, Mario Martone, but their works’ quality and innovative traits are quite different. They’re mainly quite traditional directors who prefer to stage classical plays counting on a huge budget: so fabulous scenery, fancy costumes and a large cast. However, some of them – like Federico Tiezzi and Mario Martone – usually show a much more innovative taste, producing contemporary plays or not so much attended works by great dramatists. All these directors are – directly or indirectly – linked to National Theatres while the one I think he’s the more innovative and courageous Italian director nowadays is Antonio Latella.
He’s forty-eight and he works both in Italy and abroad, mainly in German speaking countries – actually he lives in Berlin. He has his own company, called “stabilemobile”, and he stages every year about five or six new performances, some monologues – the most recent one is MA, about Italian writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini – and others much more theatrically complex, like the latest Ti regalo la mia morte, Veronika from Fassbinder movie’s Veronika Voss – Fassbinder is one of Latella’s favourite artist – and Natale in casa Cupiello, a completely new lecture of Eduardo’s well-known play. Latella usually works with some faithful collaborators – playwrights, actors, stage designers, lights-designers, etc. – and he’s used to say that in his company there’s no hierarchy but everybody’s effort is important to grant the performance success. His works are really innovative: maybe they’re not always completely successful – two years ago traditional audiences in some Italian cities were really angry about Latella’s “outrageous” Arlecchino – but they succeed both in stimulating original reflections about well-known and repertoire plays and in moving people to deep their view about historical or public characters and about some contradictions in our contemporary society.
Depicting some conflictual aspects of real life is also Emma Dante’s aim: she’s one of the most famous Italian director and playwright abroad. She lives and works in Palermo (Sicily), her hometown and her main source of inspiration. She’s used to tell stories about broken up and troubled families, mainly living in Sicily or in the South of Italy. Her favourite topics are not-accepted homosexuality, sexual harassment, old family grudges, mafia rules, but she’s also confronted herself with classical characters, as Medea. She’s director but also playwright and in her plays she mixes Italian and dialect, as well as acting with dance and music, counting on a group of wonderful actors and actresses. Emma Dante is also director of the Theatrical School of Teatro Biondo, the main theatre in Palermo, and artistic director of the Classical Theatre Festival held every year at Olimpico Theatre in Vicenza, in the North-East of Italy. So, Dante – who has also written and directed a movie, Via Castellana Bandiera, presented at Venice Festival two years ago – is really appreciated in Italy as well as she’s quite acclaimed abroad, above all in France, where her company, called Sud Costa Occidentale (South West Coast, the part of Sicily where Palermo lies), is often hosted in important theatres and festivals, as Avignon. Actually Emma Dante shares some other Italian directors’ fate, that is being much more appreciated abroad than in their own country.
Paradigmatic is Romeo Castellucci’s work: he’s a director, playwright, artist and designer. In the 1980s he founded with his wife Chiara Guidi and his sister Claudia Castellucci the Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, which soon became one of the most acclaimed and awarded theatrical avant-garde company. Actually, nowadays Castellucci’s company is considered one of the most radical contemporary theatre group in Europe, thanks to wonderful work like the project about Dante’s Divine Comedy (2008) or the most recent one about Julius Cesar. Romeo Castellucci is a very refined and cultived artist and so are his performances, which are always deep and moving experiences, both intellectual and sensory. Although the great quality of his performances, however, Castellucci is much more famous abroad than in Italy, maybe because of his rigorous and sometimes cryptic theatrical language.
A completely different kind of theatre is the one performed by Pippo Delbono’s company, another Italian artist well-known abroad. He studied with Iben Nagel Rasmussen, an actress who had been part of Odin Teatret; and then he spent some time with Pina Bausch, who invited him to take part to one of her performances with the Wuppertal Tanztheater dancers. Then Delbono travelled all round the world as well as across the borders between ordinary and “healthy” people and the lunatic one, the “freaks”. In particular, it’s fundamental Delbono’s encounter with Bobo, a small, deaf-mute man, who was living in Aversa asylum since forty-five years! Now Bobo is a real actor and he performs in nearly all Delbono’s works, which always mix words, music, dance in a quite original and sometimes provocative way. He’s mainly concerned with social and political issues but also with human deep feelings, like the ones involved in the relationship between a mother and her son – in particular the one between Pippo and his beloved mother, who has recently died. Delbono’s theatre can be sometimes quite disturbing but it’s moving and genuine, dramatically powerful: the audience is never left cold by his performances, as well as by Ricci & Forte’s (Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte) ones.
Their plays – they’re playwrights and director – are well-known abroad, above all in France but they’re also really acclaimed in Italy, where they can count on a large group of supporters. They depict an hopeless world and they focused mainly on young people in order to describe how their dreams are destroyed by the blind rules of contemporary society in the Western world. They emphasised the expressive power of naked bodies, loud music and highly symbolic scene objects. So their performances are crowded and colourful, powerful and noisy but also deeply and sincerely involved with such human feelings as hope, love, faith, etc. In their works – like Imitationofdeath or Darling, the last ones - words are important but they’re not the main aspect of the performance and their peculiar dramaturgy is a mix of words, physical gestures, music and scenery.
Actually in Italy directors are much more innovative than playwrights: however there are some young dramatists – in their thirties or early forties – who have been able to develop an original kind of dramatic writing. The most known is Stefano Massini, who has became less than six months ago artistic consultant of Piccolo Teatro in Milan, the most important Italian National Public Theatre. His quite long play Lehman Trilogy has been a great success and it has been Luca Ronconi’s last work. Some other interesting Italian playwrights are Fausto Paravidino, Mimmo Borrelli, Michele Santeramo, Davide Carnevali, Tindaro Granata, Ascanio Celestini, Daria Deflorian/Antonio Tagliarini. Some of them are also actors and directors and so they set and perform their own plays, as well as some of them often use dialect instead of Italian language. They mostly collaborate with public theatres but they also work with some important festivals, which are generally held during summer. The most famous are Santarcangelo dei Teatri (near Rimini, by the Adriatic sea), Festival delle Colline Torinesi (in Turin), Drodesera (at Dro, in the North-East of Italy), Viefestival (in Modena and Bologna), Romaeuropafestival (in Rome). They’re really important because they’re used to host some of the best Italian – and foreign – companies of the contemporary scene, which are usually neglected by National Theatres.
So the audience is able to see such private and independent companies as Motus, Anagoor, Opera, Teatro Sotterraneo, Cuocolo/Bosetti, Muta Imago, Fibre Parallele. Each one has its own peculiar dramatic language and follows his own peculiar artistic path: most of them use originally new technologies and some even deliberately neglect words to emphasize images and movements so that their performances could be considered nearly as contemporary art installations (Muta Imago, Opera). Anagoor, founded by a group of young artists from Castelfranco Veneto (next to Venice), stresses the visual and sound aspects of theatre but the company doesn’t pass by the verbal aspect so that, three years ago, it staged a play called L.I. Lingua Imperii, about the power of words in despotic countries, in present time as in the past.
Teatro Sotterraneo, then, is a company from Florence, really irreverent and ironic. It depicts our society’s hypocrisy and faults by inventing an original language, both funny and terribly serious: the audience laughs but soon the smile becomes a tear or a grimace. Thus Fibre Parallele, founded by Licia Lanera e Riccardo Spagnulo, two actors/playwrights/director from Bari (in the South-East of Italy), is deeply involved in creating a portrait of Italian society, using an harsh and colourful language, which mixes Italian and dialect, and emphasized gestures.
Motus, instead, is a company much more concerned about political topics, such as revolutions in Arabic countries or the economical crisis in Greece (Alexis, a Greek tragedy), but it doesn’t neglect much more intimate subjects, like sexual identity in its last work, MDLSX, from the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Motus’ performances are total and moving, mixing video, music, acting and an inventive use of scene objects. Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande, from Rimini, who usually work with androgynous actress Silvia Calderoni, MDLSX solo protagonist, have founded the company in 1991. Motus is highly acclaimed abroad, above all in France, like Cuocolo/Bosetti, the company formed by Renato Cuocolo (playwright and director) and Roberta Bosetti (playwright and actress), who has spent a long time in Melbourne. The couple has developed a particular kind of theatre out of traditional theatrical places, preferring instead their private house or an hotel room, and addressed to a smaller group of spectators, even just one. They’re concerned with the concept of the private house as a public stage, the uneasy sense of the unfamiliar within the familiar, the unhomely within the home, the relationship between the actress’s own biography and her public role. Thus their performances are always theatrical unique experiences, which deeply move the audience. Cuocolo/Bosetti doesn’t get any public money but it’s really appreciated and it has a lot of faithful supporters: like other private companies I’ve mentioned, they’re able to summon a huge number of spectators as well as a positive critical acknowledgement but they’re not able to get the well-deserved public support and so, very often, they’ve to go abroad, as they say, “nobody is prophet in his own homeland”.
Laura Bevione has a PhD in History of the Performing Arts by the Arts Facolty of the University of Florence. Since 1998 she is correspondent from Piedmont of the theatrical magazine “Hystrio” (www.hystrio.it). She is cultural collaborator to Festival delle Colline Torinesi and to Fondazione Teatro Piemonte Europa (TPE) in Torino.
From 1999 to 2004 she was contributor of the theatrical magazine “Drammaturgia” and since 2001 to www.drammaturgia.it. She is also contributor to the website www.sistemateatrotorino.it.