“All the artists – writes Latella – were asked to work on the theme of censorship, trying to look beyond the obvious in this proposal to think of it as a “superior” value to present to the audience and to the professionals in the field, in the belief that Italian theatre people find it difficult to break into the international market, and they are therefore, in some way, censored merely by the fact of being Italian theatre people“.
Among the many approaches to the theme, some directors and companies have found inspiration in “scandalous” authors.
Philosophy in the boudoir by the Marquis De Sade for Fabio Condemi, who previously directed Bestia da stile and Jakob Von Gunten, extends his explorations of texts about ‘reverse coming of age’ and about “authors who are inclined (or cursed) to leave the world and disappear, leaving traces behind them we can’t seem to get rid of”. In Biancofango’s imagination, Lolita, from Nabokov, “is a word in the dictionary, a young girl whom each of us has known at least once in our lives, a myth, a figure of speech, a prohibition, an inexplicable implicit, a scandalous event, a minor crime news story, a sin” and so much else. In Eh!Eh!Eh! Raccapriccio, based on Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, AstorriTintinelli imagine “a performance that has an inebriated, Luciferian aura… a place that is as reminiscent as possible of a sacred space, with an atmosphere of mystery and dusk where two creatures experience horror and disgust as they debate the transience of life”. La città morta, considered to be Gabriele D’Annunzio’s failed attempt at rewriting Greek tragedy, is now staged by Leonardo Lidi with “considerations on the censorship that D’Annunzio the playwright was and continues to be subject to, a censorship that – given the elusiveness of the text for the stage– seems almost to be suggested by the poet himself”. I rifiuti la città e la morte by Fassbinder, the most scandalous case of censorship in Germany in the 1970s, written in 1975 and staged in Germany only 34 years later, is for director Giovanni Ortoleva “the story of a modern Passion of Christ… A text that is both blasphemous and religious, that crucifies a figure whom the Bible might have placed at Christ’s feet”.
In other cases, the artists, asked to address the theme of censorship, were inspired by historical figures or political, social and psychological themes that allow them to look at reality through a magnifying glass.
George II, written by Stefano Fortin and directed by Alessandro Businaro, addresses history and the world of the American President, seen as “a Shakespearian prince”, to question “post-truth as the new frontier of censorship, its implacable and elusive control technique”. Elia Kazan. Confessione Americana, freely inspired by the director’s controversial life story, for playwright Matteo Luoni and director Pablo Solari is “a story that talks about the compromises we are all forced to make at least once in our lives: a choice for which there is no salvation. Whatever you do, you lose. With no friends or weapons, Elia will have to come face to face with his vocation all alone, if he is to truly understand who he is, or who he has become”. Una cosa enorme by Fabiana Iacozzilli explores the processes of “self-deceiving censorship” that concern women on a theme as crucial as maternity: “In building it – stated the director – I am feeding on Sheila Heti, Orna Donath and my encounters with the facts and stories of others, people I have reached out to, but who more often have reached out to me”. Dentro (una storia vera, se volete) by Giuliana Musso is a work about concealing violence, a true story of child abuse: “An experience that is hard to listen to. A mother who discovers the worst of truths. A daughter who hates her mother. A father who is innocent until proven guilty. And a slew of therapists, consultants, educators, doctors, social assistants, lawyers who aren’t interested in the truth”. The right way, a performance by Daniele Bartolini with his company DopoLavoro Teatrale, focuses on the negative effects of political correctness. “After living in Canada for seven years – says the author – all of this has involved me as well, I am perfectly integrated; every day I must deal with thought that suggests what it is right to do and what it is legitimate to think, a voice that I can choose to heed or ignore, but that still speaks and expresses judgment. In Eve #2, Filippo Michelangelo Ceredi offers an artistic answer to the widespread communicative violence that is rife in the media and in political discourse: “a process to piece the fragments of the contemporary era back together with the personal dimension of the audience and with the possibility of initiating a vital process of collective memory”. Automated Teller Machine by Giuseppe Stellato concentrates on the relationship between man and machine, where the machine this time is an ATM: “a machine with a significant symbolic potential, that forces us to question the power of an element that is as concrete as it is abstract, and is often the basis for many of the controversies in our society: money”. The performance Nanaminagura, conceived by Antonio Ianniello, is about the world of air guitar competitions, where the winners are masters in playing an imaginary electric guitar, like Nanami Nagura in the title.
Other titles in the Festival refer to a veto, a prohibition, a restriction highlighted in the title.
Natura morta by Babilonia Teatri was supposed to put a group of children onstage: “We should have been creating a peformance with a group of children. We decided not to give life to the performance, not to submit to social rules totally incompatible with the project we had in mind. Once this step was taken, we decided to take another one. Once the children had exited the stage, we decided to exit too, to leave the stage completely empty”.
Non dire / Non fare / Non baciare are three stories told by the student directors, actors and playwrights of the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica “Silvio D’Amico” under the guidance of Francesco Manetti, who takes upon himself the role of the censor. “Three stories, three examples, three symbols of how the expression of certain thoughts (non dire - do not say), the freedom to make certain choices (non fare – do not do), the relationship with the body, especially the female body (non baciare – do not kiss) are limited, underhandedly controlled, guided in reassuring standardized environments”. Untold by the UnterWasser collective explores the defence mechanisms, the screens that individuals put up to protect themselves from destruction, from the disaggregation of one’s ego and the encounter with one’s own monsters, created and fuelled by fear and pain. Bye Bye by Alessio Maria Romano imagines a group of users who “move and dance the body in a cyclical system of actions, an obsessive merry-go-round of physical actions in which the undo option available in all computers, performs the precise and subtle task of going back, erasing, eliminating all traces, details and perhaps retrieving them later. What is left after you press undo? What causes the undo action and how does one interpret what it leaves behind? Who decides to use it and when?”.
In some cases the theme of censorship is visualized in a place, a landscape, a physical space: such as Pandora by the Teatro dei Gordi directed by Riccardo Pippa, who encloses within a bathroom – in a factory, a subway station, an airport, a club, a gas station – “an amoral, suspended space, of great violence and nudity, a shared space of interiority in which to expand the spectrum of daily life beyond all limits and censures“; or such as Klub Taiga by Industria Indipendente, where the Klub is a place for the counterculture and the taiga evokes the “image of the untouched, the inhospitable, the unwanted, as a place that is antithetical to the imagined or fantasized tropical dream”; or Glory Wall by Rocco Placidi directed by Leonardo Manzan, who analyses everything there is behind a wall, wondering if “one can feel the real nature of a space behind the wall, or if one can feel the real nature of what takes place behind the fourth wall, if it is still possible to draw enjoyment from theatre. Freedom is a wall. And beyond it lies the principle of pleasure”.
Apparently unrelated to the idea of censorship, authors such as Anton Chekhov, Thomas Mann, Tomasi di Lampedusa and the relatively unknown, for Italy, Arne Lygre, were the starting point for some of the invited directors.
La tragedia è finita, Platonov is a reinterpretation by Liv Ferracchiati, who returns to a love of his youth with Chekhov’s character, attracted to “the apparent lack of self-censorship, in his thoughts, his impulses”; Ultima Latet takes its cue from the sanatorium of Mann’s The Magic Mountain which the author and director Franco Visiola also views as “an unknown and hence feared place, a place where censorship is exercised in reverse. Here they censor the sane… The patient becomes the protagonist by virtue of the illness he carries that drives him to introspection, wondering to what limit can one go to confront, when necessary, the final moment”; in Le Gattoparde (L’ultima festa prima della fine del mondo) the Nina’s Drag Queens draw inspiration from Tomasi di Lampedusa’s book “The Leopard” to reconsider the immutability of power, transporting nineteenth-century Italy into the economic boom of the 1960s; Niente di me - uno studio, by one of the greatest Scandinavian authors, Arne Lygre, staged by Jacopo Gassmann, is perhaps an extreme attempt by the literature of the theatre to reach beyond the confines of the unsaid within a couple’s relationship; but is not censoring the hidden truths of love really an act of freedom?