Inner nudity. Ricci/Forte
Interview by Cristina Gilda Artese
March 2014, at Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato in Milan: after the success of their show IMITATIONOFDEATH (next in Bobigny/Paris at Theatre MC93 from 14th November to 1st December 2013), Italian theatre ensemble ricci/forte is back. Now a show performed in 2006 – Troia’s discount – is going to be staged again. It starts with Virgil to narrate the pop hysteria of the present age. We interviewed them to make you know those who face the stage with courage and conviction, innovating its models also thanks to a very strong knowledge of classical roots.
There are people still talking about differences between theatre and performance. When watching your shows, it really seems that performance is taking possession of the stage, overlapping the text that finally becomes a mere track. Do you agree with this view?
In this interdisciplinary and linguistic Babel in which we move, at the beginning of a new World with the remains of a submerged Atlantis, with our culture and the hybridizations pushed towards us from every corner of the Earth, it is anachronistic to keep believing that creation can preserve programmatic fences. When you move the first steps towards an expressive project, you are approaching to the aquifer of a semiotic tornado where the communication criterion falls from above on the helmsman, helping him to set the right course, heedless of the signal flare.
International theatre and phenomena like in-yer-face theatre: how important are they for you?
The British social analysis of in-yer-face theatre, the movement inaugurated by Sarah Kane which inflamed the 1980s and generated the self-referentiality of those years, is certainly comparable as for its experiential intents, and only later for its social condemnation. However we have always been reluctant to consider ourselves children of an artistic movement, not just to maintain a snobbish distance, but only because we honestly do not recognize any father or cousin in our creative process. The path that led us over the years to arrange an ensemble and to distil a kind of emotional development — in which kidneys + bones + muscles evolve into a polyphonic harmony — belongs to our spasms and intertwines with the meaning of being alive, even before we moved our first unsteady steps as artists.
What does your work with artists consist of in your way of doing theatre? How much knowing each other affect it?
Knowing each other well is not crucial, but it is fundamental to rely on the karst and speleological phenomenon that applies to our alphabet. To allow someone to blindfold us and to open our throat in order to take out our heart and use it as a compass needle requires great trust and generosity in the primordial research process. Performers’ DNA is blended with our visions, magnifying the perception so to achieve a possible habitat. It is a place where you can feel at home, despite the fragmentation of a cruel and passionate nightmare.
Tell us about the importance of the body. What is the point of nudity in front of the audience?
A naked body is insignificant compared to the naked soul performers face every day. Our body is only a means of expression, it has the same value our larynx has. Living in our body is an unavoidable condition in contemporary art. Nude, too often considered voyeuristic, has lost its sinful value and has become an essential element for our body and soul in the last years. If we cannot distinguish a video on PornHub from a performance by Spencer Tunick, if naked skin can cause a mind blip and our intellect cannot understand its communicative value, the matter turns out to be a national problem after all. The brouhaha over few inches of naked skin in our theatre does not interpret the linguistic mode of an ensemble, but rather the limited boundaries of an old Catholic country in full obscurantism.
How did the Ricci/Forte partnership begin? How has it changed over the years?
We wanted to compare ourselves with each other. We shared the same disinterests, even though with marked individual differences. We analyse the Present with the same lucidity by making expressive hits that unmask the relationship between individual and society, between the self and the others, without any presumptuous intention of proposing solutions. Time and experience have made us grow, and with us the partnership between Gianni and Stefano has reached its equilibrium, this is why after so many years this partnership still generates curiosity and doubts typical of beginners, trying to escape the siren song represented by an “artistic” security that would generate unavoidable deadly miasmas.
The show Troia’s discount you are going to put on next season at Piccolo Teatro Studio in Milan dates back to 2006: what has changed in the company and in the show since then? If something has, of course!
Each work of ours is deeply fastened to the intimate spine tingling of the performers who live in it. People change, and the show moves and develops with them. Some performers replaced others, bringing in their own lymph. There has been some adjustments related to the direction, some inputs of improvisation have provided new and unexpected developments into Aeneas’ ghostly women: Creusa (Anna Gualdo), Dido (Giuseppe Sartori) and Lavinia (Chiara Cicognani), each with their own breath, portray an absence reverberating the sacrifice that the two Virgil’s warriors Euryalus (Alberto Onofrietti) and Nisus (Fausto Cabra) offer to this night which is the Life we all want.
Are there other traces of Virgil’s original work in your text?
Virgil’s humanism is intact: the sense of participation in the universal grief, the pietas (piety) meant as moral sense of attention to the values of the earth. It differs from Aeneid essentially in the language: in Troia’s discount Virgil’s verse gives way to a broken, bulimic dramaturgy, a verbal Festa di Piedigrotta (a renowned folk festival in Naples) similar to the gasoline that inflames the eternal night of Euryalus and Nisus, the thugs who have to set fire to a shopping mall run by the Russian mafia. Troia’s discount is a mysterious darkness, Virgil’s virtue, a chance to escape everyday life by means of some Homer’s adventures whose visionary dimensions are similar to a LSD trip. If the price to pay is our own existence, then we willingly sacrifice it, if this enables us to discover the moral value of a friendship.
How is it to be called les enfant terribles (the whizzkids) of the Italian Theater?
At the beginning this naÃ¯ve classification made us smile. We were eventually disappointed by the dogged attempt to diminish the serious work of an ensemble, playing it off as a provocative and outrageous phenomenon — these two adjectives are particularly appreciated by those who work in this sector who, this way, have unveiled the expressive monochromatic monotony wrapping round our Italian Culture. “C’est l’heure des cuirassiers!”, used to say Napoleon. Arid desert of mediocrity. There is no exchange of views with Europe, there is no debate between a solid individual thought and an open-minded overlook that can lose its referential feature. There is such a conservatism that the labours of Hercules seem nothing in comparison. As a matter of fact the city of Rome itself, where education and training are easily accessible, is a wasteland, with the exception of two groups (Muta Imago e Santasangre) which in our opinion have something to say and they say it with consistency and substance. For the rest, the Roman theatre is limited to what we call HRR, t.i. Rome’s huge ring road, as it doesn’t come out of it: these people remove the fishbone before serving the meal to the Monsignor of the moment just to beg for festivals and other occasions where they can be the star attraction for one night, as in a talent show. It is obvious that in such a circus, among ogres and bearded dancing women, even the most normal adjective (such as shocking, provocative, outrageous, and so on) used to describe anybody trying to exhale his/her personal breath sounds anachronistic if compared to such a narrow-minded parade.
Which are the main sources of inspiration for your work?
We try to listen to every feeble echo by alerting all our receptors in every direction. Meetings, a stop in the traffic jam, a coffee break at the bar: every moment represents a pinna through which we are deeply connected with a global beat.
What is more important? Improvisation and intuition or study and research?
Drawing conceptual lines to cross the desert by following the stars is a fundamental step for the journey. A sudden rain of comets that stuns and embraces you and recalculates the route is a gift which requires courage and open-mindedness. The reached destination is not always the one we wanted at the beginning, but the purpose of our journey is the time we spend wandering and not the final destination.
Photo credits: Andrea Pizzalis, Gianfranco Fortuna, Nene Malingamba, Daniele + Virginia Antonelli, Le Pera, Alvise Nicoletti, Lucia Puricelli