The Festival will be inaugurated by Krzysztof Warlikowski, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement with a new work for Italy: We are Leaving, an adaptation of The Suitcase Packers by Hanoch Levin, one of the major Israeli playwrights. “The finest mise-en-scène by Warlikowski in recent years” according to “Le Monde”, We are Leaving is a choral play, tinged with black humour that turns into tragedy, in which the progression towards a hypothetical better world that is constantly becoming entangled in a “false movement”, becomes the symbol of a human condition. On the stage, a small community with its everyday stories of resentment and tensions ready to explode, a mosaic of characters that Warlikowski constrains within a sort of “hypnotichyperrealism” in a choreography of gestures, tics, postures.
Kornél Mundruczó delivers a blow to the hearts of his spectators as he brings to the stage a world of brutality and abuse that opens onto man’s deepest abysses of to raise questions about freedom and destiny, good and evil. This is Hard to be a God, in its Italian premiere performance at La Biennale by the independent company Proton Theatre, founded in 2009 by Mundruczó himself, a director who leaves a powerful mark whether working in cinema, theatre or lyric opera. The action takes place inside two lorries parked in the suburbs, a no-man’s land where anything can happen, from human trafficking to snuff movies to prostitution. The narrative mechanism is set in motion, playing on the perceptive lag between the different media that the Hungarian director skilfully intersects and the plot twists that suddenly reverse the situation and point of view.
The poorest of the poor are the focus of the play by Roberto Latini, an artist who has made the relationship between voice-word-sound one of the keys to his experimentation, now in a dialogue with the unique amalgam of Giovanni Testori’s extreme novel, In exitu. To the poet’s string of stray characters in the hinterland of Milan, In exitu adds the young drug addict Riboldi Gino, caught in the last, searing moments of his life in the bathrooms of the Central Train Station in Milan. “In exitu is like a Pieta. The parabolic parabola of Riboldi Gino’s life is like that of a poor Christ held in the arms of imagined, inhaled, exhaled, disjointed Madonnas, in the phonetics of a diction strained to a level of embarrassment between sounds and meaning, as if it were the words that were finally deposed from the cross on which Testori had nailed them” (R. Latini).
The Silver Lion recipient Kae Tempest transforms the most ancient art of poetry, in its original dimension as oral storytelling, into burning energy, a necessary and authentic narration that merges the metrics of poetry and the rhythms of rap. A poet, author of plays and narrative texts that have topped the charts and reaped awards, a rapper and performer of readings that attract full houses, Kae Tempest, born in 1985, will be in Venice for the live exhibition of The Book of Traps & Lessons, in a premiere for Italy. “Kae Tempest deals bravely with poverty, class and consumerism – writes “The Guardian”. In a way that not only avoids the pitfalls of sounding trite, but manages to be beautiful too, drawing on ancient mythology and sermonic cadence to tell stories of the everyday”.
Thomas Ostermeier too, in his production Qui a tué mon père, feels the need to go back to the very essence of theatre, “to the man speaking to a group of men who have gathered to hear him” (T. Ostermeier). He does so with an autobiographical text performed by its very author, who then adapted it for the stage, like a play of mirrors: Édouard Louis, who burst onto the literary scene with En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (End of Eddy). His second novel, Qui a tué mon père, is an indictment that names the names of the politicians and statesmen who have destroyed welfare, suppressing the body and the dignity of those most fragile, those who have been left out by history like his father, who grew up in a reality that is a sentence unto itself. “The decisions by politicians can impact the lives of the poorest of the poor. Like having a certain body – black, female, transgender. A body and its dissolution that reflect the history of the past thirty years in France” (E. Louis).
Theatre becomes a painful song for Danio Manfredini, a rare and withdrawn figure of the contemporary stage who has nevertheless influenced generations of actors, and comes to Venice as the author and performer, with musician and multi-instrumentalist Francesco Pini, of Nel lago del cor. The reference to Dante in the title alludes to memory as it plummets into the depths of the inferno on earth of the concentration camps evoked in the play. Borrowing the words of Primo Levi, Hannah Arendt, and Zalmen Gradowski which Manfredini entwines in a Babel of languages, images and songs to describe what cannot be described. He dedicates this play “to the survivors, because their words have been a guide” and like a “requiem” “to all those who have died without leaving a trace”.
The question about life which is also a question about identity underlies Altro stato by Francesco Pititto and Maria Federica Maestri of Lenz Fondazione, leaders in experimentation that merges writing by images and the plastic creation of space. Adapted from Life is a Dream by Calderón de la Barca, an author who appears consistently in the company’s research and the last in a series of contemporary reinterpretations of the classics. Altro stato is presented in the form of a solo performed by the “sensitive actress” Barbara Voghera, in which the figures of the servant Clarino and the prince Sigismondo converge. The prince and the servant pursue one another in search of a lone identity with the only certainty that “there is no escaping the power of destiny and the cruelty of fate”.
What is true in an era of post-truth is the crucial question underlying The Mountain, the most recent work by Agrupación Señor Serrano. The company, which won the Silver Lion award in 2015, has invented remarkable stage devices that blend the virtual world with live performance, everyday technology and scale models, video projections and real-time images, while intersecting different dramaturgical storylines. This time they are: the first expedition to climb Mount Everest attempted by Mallory in 1924, from which he never returned, leaving doubts as to the outcome; the panic provoked by Orson Welles with his radio broadcast The War of the Worlds in 1938, the first example of the media’s power to influence behaviour; Vladimir Putin who, as the master of ceremonies, speaks with satisfaction about trust and truth, reflecting on the role of the media in reporting history… All of the above with badminton players playing baseball, lots of snow, moving screens and a fragmented vision of what is happening on stage just as it appears to us in real life.
As the author of theatre degree-zero, in which even a motionless landscape can become a show shaped by sound, Filippo Andreatta is “the most experimental director we have seen in many years” (copyright Franco Cordelli), and has even brought a book on architecture to the stage, the cult book Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas. The founder of Office for Human Theatre (OHT) in 2008, Filippo Andreatta makes his debut in Venice with the world premiere of a new project – music by Davide Tomat – which is titled, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, Un teatro è un teatro è un teatro è un teatro. “This is a show that disappears. It retreats and does not say anything. At the centre of the work is a void, an absence that leads to the emersion of something we are familiar with but are no longer able to see. Depriving the stage and the matter that inhabits it of pre-established meanings, OHT pays tribute to the theatre for what it is: a theatre is a theatre is a theatre is a theatre… Backdrops, stage sets, lights, battens, counterweights; each element becomes a voice to be heard in pure form. Voices that can be heard because there are no words. Just like a solmization, in which the notes materialize in the ear as they are: do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si” (F. Andreatta).
The vital and important tradition of Hungarian theatre brings us not only Mundruczó, but choreographer Adrienn Hód as well, the winner several times over of the Rudolf Laban Award and since 2007 head of the young Hodworks company, which gathers multidisciplinary artists around its core. With total freedom, Adrienn Hod (“On the altar of art you can do things that are forbidden in real life. Art is therefore a game, an alibi that sets us free”) decontextualizes space and movement to rediscover the radical physical quality of the body. And thus, in her most recent work Sunday, all the elements of the show, choreographic and/or theatrical, immersed in the aggressive pulsation of gabber music, are reshaped by the five performers into an essential experience that grips the spectator. “Sunday is not a boring day of rest, but an exceptional performance tour. What does it mean to be a dancer today? Is dancing dangerous? What is immoral and what isn’t? Everything is allowed. Is everything allowed?”
Finally, Paolo Costantini, the winner of the fourth Biennale College Directors programme will present, in a production by La Biennale, Uno sguardo estraneo (ovvero come la felicità è diventata una pretesa assurda), which takes its cue from The Appointment, one of the most famous works by the Nobel Prize-winning author Herta Müller, in which a nameless woman, summoned by a dictatorial regime, travels across the city seated in a streetcar and thinks. “We believe that the suffocating atmosphere of the text – writes Costantini – is effective in evoking the world we live in today. The frenetic pace of society and the pressure it applies have transformed the ways we perceive our own lives. Political dictatorship is replaced by the dictatorship of frenetic action, in which time is increasingly compressed. We find ourselves trapped inside self-generated neurotic cages, which appear in a thousand different forms, but always have in common the connection with time”.