A chorus of `errands`

First YPS — Young People’s Shakespeare, production, The Comedy of Errors dated 2009, — available for rent on Digital Theatre, launched a RSC project aiming at bringing together established actors from the main company, and directors from other companies, — here Paul Hunter and Hayley Carmichael of Told by an Idiot to promote the Canon among children, or: `young people`.

This condensed 80-minute version of the play for a Key Stage 2 audience, — here captured live at the Clapham Community Project, came out as a lighthearted, while impeccable in semantic, feast of ‘errands’. Flamboyant narrative made of improvisation — here in its perfect `soil` of interaction with the little `watered` spectators, and a chorus of instruments and voices navigating through the original lines of a `slapstick physical romance`.

Cinematic references to The Royal Tennenbaums, — the two `Antipholuses` dressed up as a twins version of Richie Tennenbaum, unforgettable hairy, headbanded, tennis prodigy in dark glasses, beige blazer, and the two `Dromios` as a twins version of Chas Tennenbaum, unique — as it is in this particular pair, widowed tycoon in a fuzzy red tracksuit, set the scene into some New York courtyard on a clumsy Summer day.

Something klezmer in the music resonates, and a Ghost Buster black T-shirt is the pop `code` which welcomes into the spirits’ world one enters once the hall turns into a theatre through a wide square wood board, the schoolchildren on the ground seated all around. This is the whole of an urban, bewitched Ephesus, and if one listens closely, one might even hear a sirene on the distance.

The duke is a small hoodlum running his small portion of the city, and his jails are so small, Egeon the Syracusan (David Carr) is kept into an unplugged refrigerator. Fate runs the plot through a `golden chain` of misidentifications, `madness`, — a pace juggling piece-in-the-piece on ‘The man is mad’ tune, `magic`— `Sure, these are but imaginary wiles, and Lapland sorcerers inhabit here`, and money.

Emilia — priory’s abbess, anticipates the happy ending with a tap dancing interlude, while all falls into place, aided by spoon-playing, and a baloons-extravaganza: `Dromio, Dromio, wherefore art thou Dromio`. No nuptial promises are set on stage, but a binding closure is foreseen. Finger to finger, as in a cruel mirror, the real world recalls, but a smile the faerie tale has lent us, and will not be forgotten.


Amleto take away

The ‘stage keeper’ asks the audience if they are ready. ‘Yes?’ ‘Good. Let’s start.’

Out of the dark a small set of red curtains gives frame to a crucified-like young man in a white monastic shirt.

‘I do suffer, though I dream
Because of this, I do live.
In the act of dreaming,
I do dive into ‘what I have inside’
That I see, even if it does not really live;
That I loose, if the day after, it turns into real.
Also, I do search for ‘who I am’,
‘who I fake to be’, ‘where I hide’,
In the act of dreaming, I do soothe the pain,
It is the only real sensation.
Life, in the end, is what, — in it, we do imagine:’

The ‘little scene in the scene’ moves towards the centre of the stage as the monologue proceeds, while an accordion, or a pianola, leads the pregnant words introducing Amleto Take Away whose meaning does not echo ‘a Shakespearean meal to have at home’, but rather the question: ‘What do you want Hamlet?’ in the Bari parlance: Amleto-te-ce-uè?

Nothing more than what we feel, we have,
And this is where the reality of our living
Lies upon, not on what we see.
‘I do suffer, dream, feel, and I am alive, different each day.
This, is what is worth to be or to have,
so that we can be, and have, what we ‘imperfectly’ are.
Ah! If this too, too sullied flesh would melt …

Gianfranco Berardi — winner with this work of the Premio Ubu 2018 as best actor, literally lives his life in blindness, — hanging in the balance between light and shadow, and brings about this project with Gabriella Casolari, and her outstanding penmanship, as a manifesto of a ‘time which is actually out of joint’.

I am squashed, blinded,
Like a moth I do meander from a glass to another,
In the permanent quest of a fulfilling something
That some heat could give me,
In this dazzling world,
full of sparkling wonders,
where every single thing is upside down,

In a rising rhythm, the monologue turns into a shout, almost a yell, against an unbearable here and now, as if the ‘micro-theater-in-the-theater’ released his hostage. Master of elocution, athletic, authentic word-machine, he bears the cross-micro-set on his shoulder as a modern hero.

The mood changes into the description of a world which is actually in a state of disorientation everywhere, no latitude excluded. Sadness, and despair, still resonating in the soul of the public, are to greet a new, old, story in the key of a tragicomic fresco of the ‘counter-entness’ we all live in.

There’s a Father and a Son and the broken Dream of a Life as an Actor because of a rare Disease.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, emblem of doubtfulness and hesitation, discomfort and inadequacy, has seemed to be to the duo-company the ideal character to entrust the leading baton of such a punctual query. This one Hamlet, though, favours a conscious failure more, rather than a shallow give away.

«To be or FB?» is his question. Sexting champion, and a fake winner of an old gone soccer championship wearing #9 on a blue and black shirt, this one Hamlet repudiates appearances in order to find himself as he really is, and his Ophelia, in a cameo of acting mastery — voice over voice, and dramaturgic talent.

The destiny of a codependent couple besieged into this economy. A real treat.

And then, all of a sudden,
All of a sudden the wining body.
We are alone, we are alone.
We are accomplices, though alone.
We are lovers, though alone.
We are brothers, though alone.
Alone, alone to face this journey.

Lost love makes indeed us stronger, but it leaves scars in our brain, and heart. Lightness, clearness, beauty, spontaneity, all is gone, and with fear only we do live, scared of collapsing at any moment. Lost love leaves behind an eroding dust that gets tears despite reasoned reasoning, wisdom, and lucidity.

It’s a sorcery, we are all victims of (…)
The sorcery must not be pandered.
It needs to be fought, or it will eat all of our dreams. (…)
Remember … My love … Always.

Nothing more, and more dignifying can be done, for a penitent, conscious mind, than a deadly wedding with poisonous flowers, and intentionally choose to get back into the small set of red curtains, and die.



Let’s say someone had blindfolded me, and accommodated me in a reserved top-tier. Lights off in the theatre, and all set on stage, once unblinded, Alessandro Serra’s Macbettu — for Sardegna Teatro, would immediately reveal to me its being an unmissable theatrical event. Mastery in lightning design, a wide, almost operatic, ‘abundant emptiness’, soon discloses the sense of a deep investigation.

The seeds of a project of international scale, are to be found in a photo feature in the course of a Sardinian carnivalesque seven days held in Barbagia. Cortèges of ‘witches, lunatics, custodians, and victims’, horns, goat bells, antique instruments made of animal skin, hooded tunics dressed men, resentful, and desperate gazes for the infertility of the ground. ‘Carrasecare’, after all, holds in its name a tragic, and mourning taste — ‘meat to be torn’.

«Those men, — explains the director, impressed me for their powerful gestures, and voices. For the closeness, and familiarity they seem to have with Dionysus, while at the same time for the extreme formal precision in their dances, and chants». Seemingly, an anthropological set of habits fitting to a tee, what he was looking for in order to produce his personal version of Macbeth. Sullen cloaks. Red wine. The attempt to domesticate Nature. Mostly, though, a somber wintertime.

The director believes his interest for the Scottish character comes from his being, as Emil Cioran would say, a great thinker, in some way as Hamlet might be considered to be. Besides the circumstances, — «he states something of a devastating profundity. Life is just a walking shadow. Macbeth cannot help but plan for the future, again, and again, tomorrow… Impossible for him to live in the present so much is he projected forward».

Four heavy iron slabs are vertically settled in the middle of the scene, loud noises from behind. Three iconic old hags, — as in ‘befanas’ crones, declare, almost hilariously, the superstitious lines. The plot is therefore set in motion, and true to the purest Elizabethan decree, men only will deliver it on. Not in a ‘translated’ Shakespearean language, but in a precise dialect that is intentionally chosen in order not to fall into a plain literary practice.

The essential scene — although full of performative mastery, holds signs of primordial, feral forces: blood, hostile as in ‘warlike’ postures, dry soil, dust, irregular pointed stones, — weapons in essence, trees’ barks, cork. The latter not being intended to vehicle some sort of ancient residual Nuragic civilisation, but rather to share a set of inner emotional elements aimed to establish a communication with the receiver of a message that is beyond time, and space.

The impatient character, unable to bear the supernatural, so much empty of Love as he is, irresistibly turns into the (co)-author of such a horrendous, as much as useless evil act. Proportions seem to be a rather meaningful semantic trait here. Small as Macbettu! is, — repeatedly yelled with a strong accent, although not as in an ambition igniting ‘hail’, but rather as in a child cherishing call.

Leader of a horde of warriors that are boars in essence manifesting their animal nature, on all fours in the course of an oinking banquet, Lady Macbeth supervises from above. Impeccably incarnated by Fulvio Accogli with his long hair, ephebic ‘allure’ despite a beard — she is a much taller commander than the ‘fake’ king himself, seating on his minuscule throne, almost a baby seat defended only by spear pointy backrests.

Each scene is an artistic frame. Impossible to say which one is the most beautiful.
The splendid parade of the tribal chiefs wearing man-shaped cork’s masks, won by Nature refusing do be domesticated. Unique, yet, and quite possibly unreachable in intensity, the superbly uncanny and mellow death of the ‘fake’ queen. ‘What’s done is done and cannot be undone’. Lightly, almost floating on the floor, a transgendered levity, magnificent in nudity, she will reach a scaffold of her choice, and let her loveless self, go.


False Hamlet

What if Ophelia and Hamlet reunited in the afterlife? Liberated — eventually, from the conditionings of a narration whose demands are of them to wear the skin of tiny fragile creatures in a fate of folly (is it?) and death? Such a linear, almost ‘pink’, mind, as mine, has — in a very poorly hamletic fashion, no doubts whatsoever. That would be the ideal chance to live at last, as they please, an infantine, delicate love which had to be sacrificed on the altar of a tragedy. False Hamlet – Opera Teatrale in Fa maggiore director and playwright Andrea Cramarossa has a different idea, as in his version he imagines those post-mortem souls to confront each other again in a purgatorial dimension yet not for any presumed sin.

Nothing gets to transform anything into a happy ending, hélas, in the poetics of this production signed Teatro delle Bambole, since Hamlet/Ophelia/Hamlet/Ophelia, in a sequence of prolonged soliloqui, are not quite capable of becoming ‘one’, not at the price of reiterating the myth of their very personal ‘repetition’. Federico Gobbi comes in from behind the public, illuminating each and every one with one of those speleology headlights, therefore beginning an actual hermeneutical excavation, which is not only concretely blinding, but requires also a pause to the sight, in order to give priority to the hearing as a deep listening.

So much dense is the author’s penmanship as a poet, in fact, that one needs to darken one’s mind. There is very little, and very little happens, on the other hand, on stage. Perhaps a rehearsal room, or that ‘court tiny theatre’ set up to flush out the murderer, still suspended in duration at the moment of the disclosure itself. Together with this already double semantic dimension, Hamlet’s poetizing presence meeting Ophelia in the end, the talented Isabella Careccia, a string of videos with no audio inserts itself on the backcloth. Could they be memories — in the one danced attempt of spiritual ‘enhancement’ following Tiomnaja noch” (Into the Dark). Surely the truth behind the fiction of ‘theatre’.

This is what ‘False Hamlet’ is, the hyperbolic elevation of false-true, fictitious-real dialectics, in the land of the ‘symbol’ — yet discovered in a previous project by the ensemble from Bari while investigating the life of fireflies —, ending up turning those tiny fragile creatures into small willingless ‘wicks’, symbiotic in the other side as well. Such a hard work ‘to be true’ it is, that the director-playwright imagines them in a scrubbed field, dressed up as on stage, despite dog masks, disillusioned, and almost joyfully resigned to their scenic identity. Incommunicable, so much so, to end up speaking other idioms.

Reflecting in theatrical terms this is a performance more than it is a ‘tale’. For one entire week I have been pondering the nice ‘scene-pictures’, post-modern, kind of in a vintage way. Most of all, however, ruminating the script, as it unavoidably calls one back in, as a protraction of the cruel Scene I, Act III. Reflecting in poetical terms this is an ambitious, yet successful attempt of going beyond Shakespeare. The action on stage, though, still needs some more breathe, out of the philosophical roots of the poetic lines, into the flesh.


A not-so-global ‘O’

‘London, was on the other side of the river’ —, this is what the tiny narrator-guide recounts in the course of the exhibition tour. No bridges to cover the distance, Bankside was a place to look at with both embarrassment, and desire. ‘Las Vegas style’, she says. That was the borough where to go to find a good pint, a whore, and, of course, a theatre. A flag fluttering on the roof meant that around 2pm there would have been something on stage.

A tweet, today, reminds me that at 2pm I will be attending As You Like It. At the Shakespeare’s Globe. Eventually. Must say it is not an easy task to carefully select the show to attend to. Not only because the billboard evermore presents little frequented elsewhere plots, but also for the absence of an ensemble per se, which is kind of disorienting. The latter to say that little consistency ends up to define the visit as a theatrical experience.

Definitely intense is the cultural experience. First, for the altogether touching, and quixotic idea of the American actor Sam Wanamaker, to build up a copy not too far away from the site of the original one, burnt down for a special effect cannon shot. Primarily, yet, for an idea of theatre, the one of that theatre, as a deep and alive conversation, — ‘philosophical’ being a dialogue, between actors and audience. A smelled human ’worldly circularity’.

It was not a matter of seeing, — except for the Devil’s Nest, where gentlemen had the chance to ‘swipe’ the fancy ladies, there searching for a zero endeavour livelihood. It was a matter of hearing the theatre. The main focus was on language, in a close physical, and eyes, proximity. The latter being what still lasts today, as the one and only element of continuity, one season after the other.

The current artistic director — Michelle Terry, ‘brands’ the 2018’s one around that concept of a ‘wooden ‘O’’ within which Shakespeare made it possible for the world to encounter worldly matters. All of them. Despite the atmospheric conditions, with or without pigeons (or helicopters), standing or seating. The director — Elle White, adheres wholly to the logic of one of the Shakespearean stories specifically thought for this set itself.

Unfortunately, the result is — as much as impeccable on a semantic level, a bit strenuous. There’s something in the practice of an obstinate ‘cross-genderality’ that endangers it to be dispossessed of its being mysteriously destabilising, and transformative. That is the case of Rosalind — the tall and slim Jack Laskey, and of Orlando — the petite Bettrys Jones. It simply does not fit.

Need to confess the ‘femininist’ inhabiting me might be here tampering, but Rosalind a man? Nope. Especially if ‘en travestie’ when already in disguise. It ends up confusing and ‘schizophrenising’ possibly the most interesting female character of the whole Shakesperean canon. She, who is the mouthpiece of an assertive sensibleness in the matters of love, which is the most radical topic inhabiting the land of imagination.

Encore, she, who consciously, and corageously, enters into the ‘green space’, — here a mysterious, and hardly to geographically locate forest, where wild animals, and occasional, glib, talkers live. She, who has to become a ‘man’ to tell men that to love is a matter of survival of the species. And ultimately she, who is capable of doing so, laboriously, and honourably, as a ‘woman’.

That is not the case (meaning: they do operate, out of fluidity, though), of Celia — the deaf actress Nadia Nadarajah, impeccably supporting her friend-sister, and neither of Touchstone — an extraordinary Colin Hurley, in his mise à la Falstaff complete with trumpet horn, and unforgettable timing, and luxuriating ‘in’ a Junoesque Audrey. Perhaps neither of a ‘hippie’ Jaques — the however excessively seraphic Pearce Quigley.

Long story short, the audience sniggers, a plastic pint in one hand. In the ‘global’ era, though, it seems to be a missed opportunity not to collect stories from the other side of the river, so to bring into the ‘globe’ something more, and more currently smelled human. That would give the audience a more Shakespearean chance to reflect, and be reflected. Entertainment does not seem to be enough. Not even in a semantic impeccable musical.

On the other hand, it is the policy of this establishment — that does not receive a penny from the government, to support the literacy of the ‘groundlings’ on the subject of the Bard. Sure, most of them are tourists. But it is magnificent. If you ever will have the chance to plan a visit, get off at Blackfriars, yes, but do not trust Google Maps. Get there across the Millenium Bridge, and you will gather an even more essential glimpse on the two worlds.


Enters, Valda

The Queen Elizabeth Hall is not overcrowded, quite the opposite. Mostly dancers, friends of the performing arts, non-Londoners. The sunny blue sky kept many others in the outer space of the Southbank Centre, despite the unmissable presence — on one date only, of a contemporary dance icon. The beautiful 84 years old Valda Setterfield. Each wrinkle, a story. From Merce Cunningham, to Woody Allen. Presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, her Lear is recent, though not new, and entered fast in the female interpretations’ history to settle quite high in terms of appreciation.

John Scott’s choreographic direction for the Irish Modern Dance Theatre, ‘minimilizes’ the plot, focusing on the relationship between Valda/Lear and her progeniture ‘beyond-gender’. There’s an across-the-board performative linguistics in action here, defining a peculiar theatre-dance made of both speech, and athleticism. Some white prints of Shakespearean fragments are set on the black backdrop, floating around a rectangular map — perhaps a realm to be split, most likely the disordered thoughts of an old lady.

Enters Valda, from the right side of the stage, a pace as much assertive as it is possible, a white paper crown on her head, house dresses. She begins to contemplate it, her inner land. She strolls on a white floor cloth, and seems to be pondering with her whole body. She stops before long, face to the audience, and she entrusts the search of a meaning she struggles to find, to some delicate tai-chi postures. Some ‘sharp’, acute notes deepen her confusion, and shadows too, come to wear further any attempt to reach a cognitive order.

Enter Regan/Mufutau, Goneril/Konan, Cordelia/Kevin, and through an increasingly rapid promenade the daughters/dancers come to complicate the above endeavour even more. Some sort of ‘chorus of the derangement’ words out loud Valda’s/Lear’s mind: ‘kingdom’, ‘royal’, ‘degree’, ‘sisters’, ‘loyalty’, ‘condition’. There’s one, however, that prevails over the others: ‘consideration’. It is the core of the relational topic, transcending any parental, or delusional, bond to open up a reflection upon the need(s) of ‘the other’.

They all search for a settlement, but it ends up being just a run, wearing and scant. The throne is a wheelchair. From a golden bag, sparkling with precious gems, Valda shares sweets with ‘the little girls’, and the audience too. The ‘affectionate depositions’ are almost acrobatic figures, a pantomime evoking a kiss on the hand, a who-is-jumping-higher game. Shakespeare is read ‘as scripted’, but the music/noise is more and more deafening. Valda/Lear has by now lost her (self) power.

It is interesting to note how this project relates to the plot suspending it as in about re-entering choir-room: Valda returning to be Valda, acting as director, especially when it comes to the interaction with Cordelia. The latter very much confused too, not just because of what Shakespeare compels her to state on stage as an actor, but also because she is French!, and cannot understand all these stories of English kings and queens… The exile is hilarious, almost en travestie… Literally rolled out of the stage, she exits singing ‘Allez venez, Milord…’

The blood feud between Regan and Goneril follows a similar evolution: from a parade of fools with flowery helmets all around the old lady, who can just spend her days begging for attentions on the phone — much more as a lucid Yiddishe Mame than as a Lear, up to a second rehearsal intermezzo. The comedy mood does not last much, though, as a physiological resentment, almost a repulsion, about an old mother’s ‘neediness’, murders by nature any filial love — ‘You are old!’.

So this is how ’The Tempest’ in this Lear goes also through a consideration of Valda on herself, perhaps as an agée dancer: ‘This is not Lear, who is it who can tell me who I am?’. The light turns into lunar, then blue. Blowing winds, in Lear’s mind, and all of the fragments of her inner land are scattered on stage, up to the dramatic reconciliation with Cordelia. That is, a needed sacrifice in order to accept the need(s) of the other.

Madness is the ultimate land of forgiveness. Daughter-mother and mother-daughter searching for a lullaby to be recovered among ancient memories, some lyrics of poetical imageries so to let go of power, family, worldly folly. Then, the peace of mind, the ending sweetness of an extremely caring, and moving gesture: Valda/Lear wrapped up as in a cocoon with the remains of her cloth/map. To fall asleep, maybe.

Lear Project-27.jpg

A Ginger English King

Something queerly melancholic defines to me the overall mood of Brighton. Those days in particular, when the seagulls yell, protesting under a grey sky because soon it will be raining. Perhaps it is a matter of the ocean’s dim waters, and those ancient white ‘walls of land’, both establishing some sort of distance; one ‘borderland channel’, historically insurmountable, while now badge of fears and uncertainties: ‘will the B-thing happen?’ — everyone has the question floating in their mind, even if anyone talks about it any more.

Possibly nothing is more appropriate than this state of mind, to approach one of the mostly ‘inner life’ packed Shakespearean tales — the not meaningless rumination of a ginger, and very English king; in the purest devotion to that white, green, and blue land that feels like relentlessly distancing from any ideal border of the one who English is not: ’scepter’d isle’, ‘other Eden’, and ‘demi-paradise’, a ‘fortress built by Nature for herself / Against infection’…

Fortunately, a change in spirit happens while getting closer to the actual location of this tiny little gem nestled in the Fringe of a rather hard to define festival — music, art, theatre, circus, dance, movies, literature… ‘too much’, some would say, slightly as some Brightonians are, locals and adopted ones, doing their best to overstate, ending up wearing out. The little jewel in question is an ‘off’ event: Puppet King Richard II is a Pocket Epics production, — and it really is a poem to be treasured in one’s pocket.

Conceived to be set in the space where it occurs, ‘The Cave at ONCA Gallery’, it is actually a one-man-show, impeccably managed by Gregory Gudgeon — yet RSC and other Shakespearean (and not) companies actor, assisted by a tiny bit of a clumsy Lucas Augustine, under the direction of the splendid Linda Marlowe (currently on stage in London), whose touch can be perceived in the almost fashion choices of the colours, echoing Vivienne Westwood’s punk.

The audience awaits for a while at the ground floor of the gallery, — white paper rolls, and coal chalks, to be then invited to descend underground, in a courtyard/cellar. The number of 26 seats makes of the performance an intimate experience, and despite the restricted dimensions, an incredible perspective discloses to the observer through a sequence of small antrums, setting up more of a devotional crypt, than a prison.

The ‘hollow crown’ hangs close to the heraldic seal — a chained deer, strangled almost with the ‘royal garland’. Genuflected at an altar face to the spectators, Richard entertains as a puppeteer in a childlike manner, while fully conscious that his own fate will held betrayal and death. His own toys are rudimentary tools, such as wooden spoons, and a shoe horn, but also real puppets — carved with unbelievable similarity to the real actor, and director by Jitka Davìdkova and Brigitte Dörner, Czech animation and 1960’s kids TV inspired.

Dressed up in a purple shell suit, white chalk on his face — not in a clownish way, though, black gloves, this virtuous improviser directs the action of the betrayal itself — alternating accents, horses hooves, air planes, and the diminishing of his own stature as a king. An invisible mirror, which will manifest just at the very end, is the real ‘transferal’ motif of a power which is imperceptible itself: the more Richard becomes smaller, the more Henry acquires in matter; black, and red, helped by vultures that would recall the ones of Disney’s Robin Hood, wouldn’t it be for a Hitlerian ‘Ride of the Valkyries’.

Nothing from the plot is spared; and the intimacy with the audience turns into something even more persuasive in the ‘second half’, when the 26 chairs are no longer frontally aligned, but disposed against the walls as in a rectangular House of Lords, all accomplices of the betrayal. Black and red are about to kill purple and ginger, so that when the stab comes, and the poetic ‘ascension’ happens, a deep melancholy takes all back to reality. The seagulls too.


KRII Welsh Captain

Pocket Epics Master