Introduction to the 42nd Festival
Àlex Rigola, Director
Venice, 1 > 11 August 2013
with the support of Regione del Veneto
The 42nd International Theatre Festival of la Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, will be held this year from August 1 to 11 according to the program outlined by the Director Àlex Rigola. At the centre of the Festival there is Biennale College – Theatre, the Biennale's strategic line which involves all disciplines and aims at training young artists, by offering them the opportunity to work side by side with the masters in order to develop “creations”. Following the experience and evolution of the workshops of the Theatre and Dance sectors, Biennale College is characterized by the notion of the “transmission of knowledge - claims the President Paolo Baratta -which leads to creation, whether through a great show, or vis-à-vis the results of a workshop”. It is within the Festival that the new creations of Biennale College – Theatre will be presented, establishing a direct and fruitful relationship between creativity and the Festival.
Àlex Rigola has imagined this edition of the Festival built around top-flight artists, who have contributed to renewing the international scene in recent decades: actors, set designers, playwrights, filmmakers, performers like Ute Lemper, Angélica Liddell, David Espinosa, Guy Cassiers, Dirk Roofthooft, Krystian Lupa, Thomas Ostermeier, Anna Viebrock, Florian Borchmeyer, Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò (Motus), Romeo Castellucci, Gabriela Carrizo (Peeping Tom), Claudio Tolcachir, Jan Lauwers, Marcos Morau with La Veronal, Wajdi Mouawad, Fausto Paravidino. These artists will become Masters in Venice for the young people selected for 1 masterclass and 16 workshops of Biennale College - Theatre, 8 of which will end in new creations and performances open to the public. Furthermore, the masters will present a performance chosen among the most important of their poetical works, and will participate in a meeting with the Festival's audience.
Following Rigola's proposal, the Festival will explore the classics, primarily Shakespeare, against which this broad interrogation will measure itself, through the various workshops and against the creative process of the artists and the participants involved.
Among the offered workshops there will be the opportunity for a master class with Ute Lemper; 5 workshops converge instead on Shakespearean characters, chosen and re-imagined according to radically different approaches by as many artists - Angélica Liddell, Gabriela Carrizo, Krystian Lupa, Claudio Tolcachir and Jan Lauwers. The work of these masters with the selected youth will result in Shakespeare, an itinerary in 5 performances, presented on the last day of the Festival in 5 sites of Giudecca. Two companies, La Veronal and Motus, will instead offer a site-specific version of the show, in the Festival program, made particular by the contribution offered by the young people who will participate in the Venetian workshop. Romeo Castellucci, too, recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievements, will reserve for the 42nd International Theatre Festival, a specific work, born from the workshop, with the enigmatic title Il Significato di. Shakespearean texts will also serve as the training grounds for the youth participating in the workshops by Declan Donnellan and Thomas Ostermeier, which will deal with different issues in relation to the classics, such as ensemble work and directorial rewriting. In matters of playwriting the workshops are offered by professionals ranging from Wajdi Mouawad to Florian Borchmeyer and Fausto Paravidino. Anna Viebrock will work on the stage design in relation to playwritingwhile Dirk Roofthooft will speak on acting and Andrea Porcheddu on theatre criticism.
The deadline for applications to participate in Biennale College – Theatre is June 3. All information can be found at www.labiennale.org/en/theatre/collegetheatre.
UTE LEMPER AND ÀLEX RIGOLA
Ute Lemper was a dancer for Béjart and Pina Bausch, an actress for Altman and Greenaway, Luciano Berio wanted her for his Folk Songs in Florence and at La Scala, while Elvis Costello, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Nick Cave and Tom Waits have all written for her; she has graced the stages of major theatres and recorded for major record labels, won the Molière and the Lawrence Olivier and was repeatedly nominated "crossover" artist of the year by Billboard Magazine: Ute Lemper is celebrated as one of the greatest artists of our day. She will be inaugurating the 42nd International Theatre Festival on Friday August 2 with a recital of songs by Brecht and Weil at La Fenice Theatre (9:30 pm) [ video ].
With the glamour of the stars gone by, from Marlene Dietrich to Lotte Lenya and Edith Piaf, whom she considers her mentors and of whom she is the natural heir, Ute Lemper embraces an immense repertoire, whose mainstay is in the Kabarett of the inter-war period (she has recorded the complete works of Kurt Weill) that widens to include the songs of French songwriters Brel, Ferrè, Vian, Yiddish songs and Eastern Europe songs, legendary musicals (Cats, Cabaret, Chicago), tango music by Astor Piazzolla, and jazz. But whatever Ute Lemper sings, she impresses her soul on it because, as she wrote when presenting her album Illusions: "Every song is a piece of theatre that tells of a paradise lost, and speaks to us today, and about us."
It is on the occasion of her Venetian presence that Ute Lemper will give a unique masterclass for 20 actors and singers and 10 auditors on 2 August at Teatro La Fenice in Venice.
The opening day will be introduced by a surprise: the debut in Venice of the director Àlex Rigola, who will direct a show in its world premiere. Author of incisive rewritings of great classics that have made him famous beyond the borders of Spain and also in Italy, like the Shakespearian trilogy - Julius Cesar, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, followed by Coriolà and last year, Mcbth (Macbeth), Àlex Rigola has worked with much modern and contemporary playwriting but has also produced plays using texts by famous writers, such as Roberto Bolaño's unfinished novel, 2666. And Rigola is returning to Bolaño, a cult author, with an adaptation for the stage of El polícia de las ratas (Teatro alle Tese, 7:00 p.m., with repeated performances on August 3, 6, 7). Taken from the collection of tales, El gaucho insufrible (The Insufferable Gaucho), the tale involves an investigation by the detective Pepe el Tira who, on the trail of a serial killer, rummages through the slums of an absurd, Kafkaesque world.
SHAKESPEARE AND BEYOND
Of the 5 directors and performers who have chosen to work on Shakespearean characters, Angélica Liddell is certainly the most extreme. For the Catalan artist, the author of works of fiction, poetry and drama besides being an actress and director, writing seems to be a necessary choice, and theatre seems engraved in her flesh. In her native Spain they have defined her work as a battlefield in which art is born from conflict, they have read in it the "search for meaning through pain and rebellion" (Oscar Cornago), and have already given awards for this artist's "rare and discomfiting talent" (El País), such as the Premio Nacional de Literatura Dramático 2012. It is not surprising that for her workshop, Liddell chose Lucretia, the protagonist of the poem The rape of Lucretia, which Shakespeare wrote in 1594, giving voice to a woman's painful tirade against violence suffered, what Fassbinder called "the violence of the stronger". It will be interesting to see which version Liddell will present on the final day of the Festival.
Appearing for the first time at la Biennale, which is awarding her the Silver Lion of the 42nd International Theatre Festival, Angélica Liddell, in addition to the workshop on the character of Lucretia, brings to Venice an anomalous rewrite of Shakespeare's Richard III, known to history as one of the most fierce and disturbing portraits of power. El año de Ricardo [ video ], the title of this radical rewrite, arrives for its Italian premiere after a triumph in Avignon and a long tour (August 8, Teatro alle Tese, 9:00 p.m.). Angélica Liddell is onstage and vomits her lengthy monologue as if in the grip of a self-destructive trance, flanked solely by the silent presence of William Catesby (Gumersindo Puche). This stinging performance by Angélica Liddell - a physical, psychological and moral tour de force – becomes a dizzying descent into the abyss of evil in this Shakespearean text, in a violent act of accusation against the crimes with which man has stained himself, even in our days: from the destruction and suffering of war and genocide to the abuses of dictatorships and imperialism. Having pondered over this Shakespearian text for five years, Liddell sees it as a way of speaking "uncensored and without half-truths" about the concrete problems and evils of our time. "Staging a play like this is no small wager – critics have written - one can easily be disturbed by the brutality of it, never gratuitous yet at the limits of the bearable, or cling to one's armchair, fascinated by that most human of beasts, the engulfing and excruciating portrait of our society" (F. Motta, Il Sole 24 ore).
Somewhere at the crossroads between dance and theatre, the dreamlike poetry of Gabriela Carrizo, which eliminates the barriers between the real and the imaginary by alternating between crude, realistic language and hallucinatory sensibility, for the 42nd Festival it will measure up against the fragility and ambiguity of the character of Ophelia, chosen by the artist for one of the 5 tiles that make up the creative work on Shakespearean characters.
An Argentine, Gabriela Carrizo trained in the fertile area of Flemish dance and theatre, with Alain Platel's Ballets C de la B and Jan Lauwers' Needcompany, before creating with Franck Chartier, in 2000, Peeping Tom, her own company stationed in Brussels. In Venice you will see one of her most recent successes, 32 rue Vandenbranden (August 10, Teatro alle Tese, 7:00 p.m.) [ video ].
One breathes a nightmarish atmosphere in rue Vandenbranden, and a sense of impending threat: everything seems to allude from the beginning, despite the hyperrealism of the scenography, to a mental space: a snowy Nordic landscape in low light, the top of a wind-battered mountain, a few dilapidated caravans, which are more luckily-found refuges than a true shelter. It is the extreme situation in which a small isolated community is living, whose members - a young couple, a pregnant woman, two friends - more than attract, repel each other, and where the difference between reality and their own personal perception is suspended. The same happens to the viewer, who spies voyeuristically upon the play's events from behind the windows of the various shacks and remains ensnared, in this visionary play, he feels its emotional pressure, while he follows the characters who vanish, become lost, transform themselves, sink into their anxieties, still prisoners of their own loneliness. The play unfolds through micro-narratives, in which, more than actions, Peeping Tom puts on stage existential conditions and situations; it's up to the spectator to assemble the fragments into a personal vision. The performance’s different elements are united by the quality of the movements, the very signature of Peeping Tom: extreme acrobatic virtuosities, at the limits of contortionism, and unseemly gestures, sometimes neurotic, perfectly interpreted thanks to the elasticity of the bodies of the six performers.
A point of reference in the European theatrical world, Krystian Lupa is one of the directors, along with Liddell and Carrizo, called upon to compose the mosaic of creations that will be the fruit of the workshops with young dancers and actors on Shakespearean characters, visible to the public on the last day of the Festival.
Active at the Stary Teatr and a teacher at the state school of theatre in Krakow, the Polish director belongs to a theatre once defined as artistic and has influenced several generations of artists in his country. Focusing on the comparison with the forms of narration, Lupa is the author of a theatre "that does not reinvent but revives literature onstage (whether Dostoyevsky, Musil or Bernhard)" with an analytical spirit, by following step by step the exploration of the human soul and its actions. It is a theatre far from today's syncopated rhythms, and is made from the psychological realism and expressionism of the scene, constructed down to the smallest details, exactly like the texts to which it refers.
Hamlet's famous “Go to a Nunnery!” monologue offers the inspiration for Lupa's character analysis, which he proposes for the workshop and the collective creation dedicated to Shakespeare. Of his ample production, instead, the 42nd Festival will present Ritter, Dene, Voss (7 August, Teatro Goldoni, 9:00 p.m.) [ video ], among the most successful shows of the Polish director and deservedly the longest-lived, which is still being interpreted by the same cast of actors. Created in 1996 as the last chapter of a Bernhardian trilogy, after The Furnace and Immanuel Kant, Ritter, Dene, Voss opened the Taipei Arts Festival two years ago. At the centre of the story, written by Thomas Bernhard in 1984, are two sisters, Dene and Ritter, and their brother, Voss, a philosopher who has chosen insanity and had himself locked up. Voss’s return, into whose life Bernhard allows Wittgenstein's shadow to fall, sets in motion the perverse family dynamics that govern the characters, detonates the conflict between rebellion and resignation, triggers a massacre that occurs before the dining room banquet table, the symbol of family unity, conviviality and bourgeois traditions. The claustrophobic scene created by Lupa amplifies the asphyxia that exudes from the relations between the characters.
The fourth chapter on Shakespearean characters to create Shakespeare will take place with Claudio Tolcachir, who along with Rafael Spregelburd and Daniel Veronese, is one of the leading names of the independent Argentine Theatre, today more than ever present on the European scene. Actor, playwright and director, he creates everything involved in his shows, Tolcachir forms his work around the scenography, with the actors: "Theatre is a complex process whose mechanisms should remain unseen, a process in which the parties should merge into a unity that passes through our bodies, excites us and makes us also reflect - says Tolcachir. But theatre is above all its actors". Involved in the creation of the work, the actors selected for the workshop with Claudio Tolcachir will work on the protagonist of the "Scottish tragedy”: Macbeth.
Alongside with the Shakespeare show, the Festival presents another of Tolcachir's works El viento en un violín (5 August, Teatro Goldoni, 9:00 p.m.) [ video ], third instalment of the trilogy that began with La omisión de la familia Coleman which has been performed in more than 30 countries. A result that surprised even Tolcachir himself, and which started from a literally homemade theatre in Argentina in the years of the economic crisis, when at the threshold of the new millennium he founded the first nucleus of his company, Timbre4, which indicates the number on the doorbell of his home/theatre, which is also a school and a company.
El viento en un violín demonstrates all the original traits of Tolcachir's writing: heated rhythms and tones between the surreal and the tragicomic, able to dissolve the ferocious analysis of relational dynamics, between the precariousness of the ties and the ambiguity of the feelings. Tolcachir takes as his subject of scrutiny that relational nucleus par excellence, the family, in today's slightly unhinged form. To wit, in Viento en un violin, the protagonists are a homosexual couple who want a child at any cost, and a young man, dominated by his mother. The two nuclei, so opposite in their respective social backgrounds, personalities and life choices, cross paths, due to a series of coincidences, tit for tat and unexpected twists, all thanks to that single engine that governs us, the search for love and happiness. And there will be fireworks.
The Flemish director Jan Lauwers completes the list of directors who will give life to Shakespeare, the collective pièce on Shakespearean characters on the last day of the Festival. If the cypher of Lauwers' work is the perfect synthesis of several artistic codes - dance, theatre, cinema, music and visual arts – the shows inspired by Shakespearean texts, all produced by Needcompany which he founded with Grace Ellen Barkey, couldn't be other than very personal. Julius Cesar, Antonius und Kleopatra, Needcompany's Macbeth and Needcompany's King Lear declare from the start the special viewpoint of these shows. At la Biennale, Lauwers will direct his attention to the character of King Lear, examining his part in the final act. If Shakespeare is a creator of images, Lauwers is in search “of the absolute image”, going beyond the passing, or “image-limit” that according to Lauwers is reached “when time seems to stand still and the image is recorded in the memory”.
Needcompany will also present Jan Lauwers' latest success, Marketplace 76 (6 August, Teatro alle Tese, 9:00 p.m.) [ video ]. According to a method dear to the director, Jan Lauwers intertwined as in a kaleidoscope the lives and stories of villagers, during the commemoration of a tragic event: the gas explosion which the previous year had caused 24 deaths, including children. Against this backdrop is another story of violence, which triggers retaliation and ostracism from the community. At the heart of the play is a subject that has always fascinated Lauwers: the mechanisms that govern individuals in a community, the conflictual relationship between the individual and society, the problem of guilt and atonement, of justice and injustice.
Lauwers, who plays the role of narrator in the show, draws on an entire arsenal of theatrical tools: videos, puppets, dance numbers and singing, mime, performance, everything ends in a polyphonic construction mixing tragedy and comedy, reality and fantasy.
Next to the itinerary in 5 shows on Shakespearean characters, another two workshops, respectively with Declan Donnellan and Thomas Ostermeier, will be developed on the theatrical world of the Bard.
Declan Donnellan, among the most influential European directors to have dealt with the great classics of drama from around the world, fishing among the very rich waters of Elizabethan, Jacobean and restoration-era theatre, as well as among German and French classical theatre, the siglo de oro of Spanish theatre, the Russian theatre, but also in great literature, will offer at the Biennale a workshop titled "Measure for measure: classic text and ensemble. "The great acting," said Donnellan, "is something that takes place in the space between the actors and not in the acting itself", just as the job of the director is not "to have a vision of how to put a text onstage", but to help all actors as if they were a single ensemble, so that every part grows in unison with that of the others.
At la Biennale, Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod will be presenting their latest show for the first time in Italy: Ubu roi (4 August, Teatro La Fenice, 7:00 pm) [ video ]. After the experience with the Russian company in Moscow, Donnellan returns to conduct the same French company with which he had staged Racine's Andromaque at the invitation of Peter Brook in 2007, an international success destined to be replicated with Ubu Roi.
Born from the pen of Alfred Jarry, inventor of the science of imaginary solutions, and forerunner of surrealism and the theatre of the absurd, Ubu roi, a scathing satire on power and charm, has never ceased to unleash the imagination of filmmakers, writers, actors, resisting the most varied interpretations.
It is up to Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, partner in all his works, to stage the French "pataphysical" text, whether it be the work of a scholar (it was born in fact from the school desks as a joke about a professor) or the product of a genius. "We belong to a species that prefers to evoke the innocence of childhood rather than remember its potential cruelty – state the authors, then add immediately after: we remember selfishness and violence of our childhood?". Donnellan and Ormerod imagine a domestic setting for the play, with a spotless middle class living room; but as soon as the son of the couple who live there lingers with his camcorder on the details of the walls, furniture, carpets, there emerge traces of a neglect and vulgarity destined to explode like an underground force. The grand-guignolesque story of Father and Mother Ubu, with the struggle for the Kingdom of Poland and the chain of bloodshed that's triggered, flows and intertwines – between one dish and the other - at the pretentiously stylish dinner the small bourgeois couple puts together for their friends. With masterly light changes, the couple and their guests are transformed into Jarry's characters, giving vent to their most brutal instincts and turning the pretty little house into a battlefield. Donnellan and Ormerod bring the play into our times, and by creating a contrast between the two worlds, reveal their common matrix.
The author of radical re-readings of the classics, such as Hamlet presented at the last Theatre Biennale, Thomas Ostermeier will be back in Venice and the young actors and filmmakers selected for the Biennale College will be able to attend his workshop - entitled "Re-directing the Classics" - focused on the texts of Shakespeare. The Festival will present, in addition, in its Italian premiere, his latest success, which sparked outcry for its direct involvement of the audience in the play hall, an audience that has never been so involved as when this play has been presented: An enemy of the people by Henrik Ibsen (10 August, Teatro Goldoni, 9:30 pm), an author whose work Ostermeier often revisits [ video ]. What attracts the German filmmaker to Ibsen's dramas "are the characters, always under economic pressure. Ibsen describes the 19th-century bourgeois society where the economy interferes in human relationships" (Time Out). The same occurs in An enemy of the people, an almost forgotten text by the Norwegian playwright, but of extreme modernity in its theme: it is the story of Dr. Stockman, banned from an entire community for fear his attempts to denounce the water pollution in the local wells will result in an economic collapse in the region. "It's a text where you see the distorted effects of this economic pressure on an entire community, where survival depends on being able to sell contaminated water. In this context, the conflict between truth and falsehood, or rather between truth and power, sounds eerily contemporary, touching on the same contradictions in the economic system"(T. Ostermeier, Time Out). In the end, what the doctor is aiming at not only is the lethal pollution of the wells, but of society as a whole. The Ibsen drama plays on the fine line separating honesty from fanaticism. But what chance does transparency have in a society dominated by economy? This is the question Ostermeier asks when confronting the text. Which touches on themes of a burningly topical nature in the director's profoundly modified version; he was aided in this work by playwright Florian Borchmeyer: the town meeting convened by the doctor to denounce the truth turns into a debate with the audience; the theme of ecological pollution becomes that of political corruption and of the economic crisis; the j'accuse of the doctor becomes a denunciation of the evils of capitalism and its imminent collapse, quoting whole passages of Insurrection qui vient, a pamphlet by an anarchic collective circulated on the internet; finally – with the disenchanted cynicism of our day – he changes the ending. Dr. Stockman will in fact be given by his father-in-law, who is also responsible for water contamination, the water company's shares and an ambiguous silence will fall over his choice.
Another Shakespeare via Tim Crouch is what Fabrizio Arcuri, among the protagonists of the national scene since the 1990s with his Accademia degli Artefatti, will present before the public of the Festival. An attentive observer of the British scene that includes Sarah Kane, Martin Crimp, Mark Ravenhill, Arcuri has been staging texts by Tim Crouch, an actor before becoming a playwright, since Crouch first began to write in 2003. And to Tim Crouch goes the merit of having dealt with Shakespeare "from the back", choosing to recount the Bard's comedies and tragedies as seen through the gaze of walk-ons, of minor characters, of those who have no voice. These are the Five monologues on power and violence of which the Academy will present a selection at the Festival, on four consecutive days: August 5, 6, 7, 8 (Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.): Banquo from Macbeth, Peaseblossom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cinna, from Julius Caesar, already completed, and a fourth chapter now under construction, Caliban from The Tempest.
For the 42nd International Theatre Festival, the Catalan company La Veronal, and the Italians of Motus and Romeo Castellucci, will each hold a workshop aimed at a site specific creation.
For Marcos Morau and his company La Veronal, founded in 2005, it is a method of working they have tried before: to create shows at the site of the places that will host them, or forming the plays' main lines along the spaces suggested each time by a different theatrical space, and above all, drawing from the artistic forces and the history of new cities and new countries. So it will happen in Venice, where Morau will work for Picasso - Pájaros muertos [ video ] with a group of actors and dancers selected for the Biennale College – Theater, who will recreate the play with the original company (9 August, Campo San Francesco della Vigna, 10:00 p.m.).
Originally created for the Picasso Museum in Barcelona in 2010, Picasso - Pájaros muertos borrows the title of a work from the Cubist period of the Catalan painter. Around this monumental figure Marcos Morau develops his work, composed of tableaux vivantes, where the bodies of the dancers-actors become the story. The show evokes the first decades of the last century, a historical period of which we are direct heirs, and in which the French avant-garde and the Spanish tradition battled head to head. Picasso himself is at the crossroads of this encounter, that is a clash, between "French pride and excesses of the Spanish customs". The tale unfolds through those characters who have walked through the life of the famous artist, sharing with him years that were fruitful though torn by wars and violence, characters who almost always disappeared, as if chasing an inescapable destiny. Love, art, travel, death are the ingredients that make up this fresco.
Formed by young people from various artistic fields, the company takes its name from a popular antidepressant to emphasize "all the effervescence and overdose of movement that distinguishes it" (El Mundo). Morau says: "I use dance to speak of things that belong more properly to the world of theatre or cinema, but that thanks to the abstract art of dance acquire their own distinctive trait".
The Motus [ video ], one of the most famous Italian companies abroad, founded by Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò in '91 along with musicians, artists and sculptors with the intent of expanding the theatrical experience, have chosen to develop their shows differently depending on the places that host them, with the intent to opening them up. To do this they created the MucchioMisto Workshop, "o atelier nomads, who follow and nourish the entire work on Nella Tempesta, launched in 2011 and which will be completed in 2068". The MucchioMisto Workshops which will take place in Venice is Storm Chaser and refers to those obsessed with that meteorology from whom it takes its cue, starting from the actual instructions that are given regarding how to perform the job of "storm chasers". "On the other hand it's a storm, albeit it a metaphorical one, that we must face. These amusing instructions will be transposed into the realm of playwriting to deal with 'Shakespearean tempest, and to regulate participation in the show itself, which though it has already debuted, we want to keep open to influences and 'contagions' ... Let us remember that in the Shakespearean island, the tempest and the drift end up being, in essence, the bearers of real renewal ... when no man was his own. What is put onstage, therefore, is not a world that is ending, but one that begins. Of course, one who chases storms, must avoid surveillance and build security systems and adequate camouflage... He must know nature, respect it and follow its advice: in a sense he must act like Caliban." The new version of Nella Tempesta, at the end of the workshop, will be presented on August 4 at the Teatro alle Tese (10:00 pm).
The winner of the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at this Festival is Romeo Castellucci. He turned theatre into a plastic art, complex, rich in visions, and through it developed a language that can be understood throughout the world, just like music, sculpture, painting and architecture. He will reserve for the Biennale the first chapter of the workshop entitled Sul Significato di, a site specific creation, intended for 12 actors and performers, in which 8 listeners will also be able to participate.
FROM TEXT TO THE STAGE
Wajdi Mouawad is currently one of the greatest theatrical authors. A theatre that tells stories of great ingenuity in their playwriting, and of rare emotional power: the precise architecture of the events, the invention of characters, the rhythm, the suspense and the twists, are all masterfully dominated by Mouawad and put at the service of the story. Which would all be futile if it did not touch our heartstrings, thrilling us, getting us involved, moving the audience. The playwriting workshop by Wajdi Mouawad, whereby 20 persons will be selected, between playwrights, actors, choreographers and filmmakers, will focus on the creative process: questioning it, perceiving the relationship with an idea, manipulating the method, breaking up and transforming one's own world in relation to the others are the topics of his workshop.
Despite the French success of Littoral, in Italy Majdi Mouawad, a Lebanese Canadian but today naturalized in France, is remembered especially for Incendies, first a theatrical success, then a cinematographical one, brought on the big screen by Denis Villeneuve with the title La donna che canta.
An author of large-scale historical and familial portraits, but also an actor and director, Mouawad will be in Venice with Seuls (3 August, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, at 7:00 pm) [ video ]. The play takes its cue from autobiographical themes, as is often the case for this author: exile, identity, family relations. When in the grey and banal existence of Harwan, a Lebanese in exile in Montreal, frightened by the feeling that life is passing him by, chance breaks in and, in a moment, everything changes. For a series of coincidences, he finds himself spending a night at the Hermitage Museum in front of the Rembrandt painting depicting the return of the prodigal son: it is in this long night that the protagonist finds himself in touch with his long-forgotten native language, and with it, the deep layers of all that has accumulated in him, his childhood, his troubled relationship with his father, his exile, the deceptions of life. Just like the screenplay, the show follows a precise architecture: from a slow and monotonous pace, fed by minimal gestures and silences and highlighted by the realistic scenography, it switches to an increasingly agitated pace that exploded in the final scene, where the décor vanishes and the protagonist, Mouawad, makes us penetrate the visions and nightmares of his soul.
Two other workshops are dedicated to writing: the first with Florian Borchmeyer - dramaturg for Ostermeier, Carrie and Alvis Hermanis – that will focus its analysis on adapting and rewriting classics, from the novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo; the second by Fausto Paravidino, among the youngest and most talented Italian authors today, but also an actor and director, who has entitled his workshop Azione e punto di vista, to stress that "we will write, and we will act out what will be written."
With a complex idea of crafting the scene, Anna Viebrock, stage designer and director known throughout the world for her "poetry of small things", and who since 1990 has been in an artistic partnership with Christoph Marthaler, will hold a workshop for 20 actors, directors, designers and playwrights, and starting from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, working in the field of scenography in close relationship with the show's drama.
Also inspired by writing is Andrea Porcheddu's workshop, this time under the form of criticism, an indispensable element of every civilization; Porcheddu has written for Il Sole 24 ore and today writes for various websites. The workshop is aimed at young people, but also is meant for a designer and a photographer. The selected participants will form the editorial team that will work both on the web and on paper, providing the daily "sheet" of in-depth information about the Festival.
THE MAGIC OF THE ACTOR
There are three ingredients that make Sunken Red [ video ] a masterpiece, to be staged in Venice for the Theatre Festival (August 3, Teatro alle Tese, 10:00 pm) after a tour destined to last even longer, since its debut in 2004. The first is Jeroen Brouwers, among the most important authors of the German tongue, who with an anti-sentimental yet deeply poignant approach writes a lucid confession where the memories of a painful childhood come to be intertwined with those of the woman the protagonist has loved. The news of his mother's death triggers a chain of painful memories in the protagonist-author: three years' internment in a Japanese prison camp in Jakarta in 1943, where he witnesses violence against his mother and his grandmother's death; the boarding school to which his mother sends him afterwards, and which he will experience as a second, unforgivable internment, all the way to the failures of his relationships with women, undermined by his emotional fragility. Then there is a well-known director in Europe, the Belgian Guy Cassiers - director of the Toneelhuis company of Antwerp but best known in Italy for his Wagnerian tetralogy at la Scala - that transforms the text into a long monologue, and allows the viewer to penetrate into the recesses of a tormented soul by using technology in playwriting. A series of closed-circuit cameras shoot the actor in extreme close up, multiplying details and perspectives, recreating an environment that penetrates the nightmare narrated by the actor. By amplifying even the actor's slightest breath in the scene, the technique enhances the intimacy of the tale, seen by the French press as a personal confession to every spectator in the room. But without a great actor like Dirk Roofthooft, by all rights co-author of the show, who lends his voice, his pauses, his anguished whispers, and who can recite the monologue equally in Dutch, French, Spanish and English, none of this would exist.
Franco Cordelli wrote: "One wonders why no Italian publisher has translated a text with such evocative power, with so poignant an evocation of so many painful episodes. … But it isn't just the novel that's amazing. So are the director, with his use of red lights, diffused lighting or lighting spread out in a radial pattern on the floor, and his interpretation. Dirk Roofthooft is much more than just an actor. He does not recite, he limits himself to talking, or better, just murmuring, as if, with that hoarse, desolate voice of his, he were saying everything to himself"(Corriere della Sera, December 12, 2010).
Dirk Roofthooft will lead the workshop on and with actors who will be selected for Biennale College - Theatre: having already acted for Jan Fabre, Wim Vandekeybus, Peter Sellars, besides for Cassiers, Roofthooft will try to convey to the participants a variety of ways to work with the text material and with silence, the body, the voice.
THE THEATRE AT THE TIME OF THE CRISIS
A 37-year-old actor and dancer, the founder with Africa Navarro in 2006 of the company El Local, a space dedicated to the encounter between the arts, David Espinosa arrives for the first time in Italy with a singular show: Mi gran obra (My Great Work) [ video ], to which one might add as a subtitle, 'The Theatre at the Time of the Crisis'. There are those who like Tolcachir have done so vis-à-vis a homemade theatre, with Timbre4, and those who, like David Espinosa, with a career as an actor and then as the author of his own shows, have solved the problem with a reversal of perspective. Being without heavy financing, which in any case never guarantees artistic outcome, Espinosa has created a miniature theatre where the audience, which at this point looks like Gulliver with the Lilliputians, enters (obviously in a limited number – in Venice there will be 20 audience members, but with 2 repeated performances per day) to find a stage no bigger than a small table and where it's best to observe the action with binoculars. But despite its small scale, this theatre has literally everything: from scene changes to lighting to scenography to the actors, the performers of an unlikely story. Everything is in "mock-up" version, a model likely to undergo future developments.
"Mi gran obra is what I would do if I had an unlimited budget, a large theatre, 300 actors on stage, a band, a rock group, pets, cars and helicopters", all of which will really be there on stage. Espinosa ironically recalls Thomas Moore's Utopia, because Mi gran obra is a true utopia. "The uncertainty and the lack of means, explains the creator and director of the performance – has always forced us to be creative in finding solutions, to make of necessity a virtue ... and right in the middle of the harshest crisis, the moment arrived to tackle our most ambitious project. The show was born from the idea of building a large-scale spectacle, one that spared no expense, and in which we set no limits to the artists we could hire, but with one slight detail: the scale. You think big but build small". A provocation? Not only that. With the model used to realize his dream, Espinosa also reflects on the idea of representation, on the relationship with the viewer, on the decontextualization of real objects through scenography, on the questioning of our own idea of art and culture.
The show will be staged from August 3 to 10 in Ca' Giustinian, seat of the Biennale, with repeated performances (hours 12:00 and 3:00 p.m.).
With a view to an increasingly aware public, to enthusiasts and the curious who want to deepen their knowledge, to the poetic world of a director and the passions that inspire him but also to the method that drives him, the 42nd International Theatre Festival has invited the artists on the programme with workshops and performances to attend a series of meetings with the audience. The day following their debut onstage was intentionally chosen, for each of them, in order to allow the public to give concrete feedback on the show.
Inaugurating this series of meetings on August 4, are Wajdi Mouawad (4:00 pm) and Guy Cassiers (5:00 pm); on August 5 it will be the turn of Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò, from Motus (4:00 pm) and Declan Donnellan with Nick Ormerod (5:00 pm); to follow on August 6, Claudio Tolcachir (5:00 pm); on August 7 Jan Lauwers (5:00 pm); on August 8 Fabrizio Arcuri (4:00 pm) and Krystian Lupa (5:00 pm); on August 9, Angélica Liddell (5:00 pm); on August 10 Marcos Morau (4:00 pm) and Romeo Castellucci (5:00 pm). The cycle will end August 11, the last day of the Festival, with Gabriela Carrizo (5:00 pm) and Thomas Ostermeier (6:00 pm).