Category Archives: Spoleto

Day 19 Barcelona and Ubu Roi

 

imageMy final day was spent at Parc Guell and with this visit all my long held desires to explore Gaudi were realized. Again whimsy and practicality are forged with nature and this beautiful location captures the cool harbor breeze that eludes the town below.  Gaudi, greatly informed by the ancient Greeks, has made our world a more beautiful and happier place.

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With a few hours to go before going to the theatre, I decided I really should try to do some shopping and so I started along the Ramblas only to find the last thing on my bucket list, the Gran Teatro Liceu and I was able to join the final tour of the day.image

It really is a superb opera house in the Italian style. Privately owned for generations, it is now in the hands of the government. Its most recent refurbishment following a fire in the 1990s, has improved the acoustics, the staging, rehearsal and dressing rooms and made the previously exclusive grand reception area available for all patrons. It’s a lavish and very appealing theatre.

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And finally after a sangria and a sit down it was time to find the Teatre Lluire on Mont Juic. I never did get to do any shopping. image

As I walked amongst the charming buildings of this arts precinct to get to the theatre, I discovered the Barcelona Institute of Theatre, an establishment that has always fascinated me in that it has a specific charter to teach, research, conserve, promote and innovate Catalan performing arts. It has also hosted many significant, international theatre studies conferences.image

imageNot knowing what sort of theatre is housing Ubu Roi, I’m astonished to find myself in the 1929 Palace of Agriculture, also built for the World Fair, now with a 2000 seater conversion in high Barcelona design. Even more astonishing is that I’m in the front row.image

And the play is also astonishing. With a fine pedigree coming from an invitation from Peter Brook, Cheek by Jowl created this production in co production with The Barbican, London.

Presented in French with Catalan surtitles, this is French high art in what I would expect from  La Comedie-Francaise. Jarry’s, Ubu Roi (1896) is always open to extraordinary interpretations and while this was salon style farce in a proscenium arch theatre, it was not so much the interpretation that was astonishing but the performances  particularly of Mere and Pere Ubu. However can I describe their energy and ability to turn on a sixpence? However can I even imagine what the rehearsal process must have been like to accomplish this level of slickness and how did the director know/ imagine what these people were capable of? How did he take them to those places? What an extraordinary accomplishment.

And please remember that I’m seeing this in a language I only just understand, so for the most part I’m missing the text and seeing French chic dissolve into the madness of vulgarity and scatology and back again. Really, for acting and production, this show takes the prize on this trip. Cheek by Jowl has presented a wonderful range of classics and this is no exception. I think there were at least 20 curtain calls. The audience went wild for it and so did I.image

What a wonderful note on which to end this tour.My sincere thanks for all comments, tweets and follows. It’s been a joy to stay in touch.

The next tour? Same time, same station, 2015.

Please go to http://www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com for a full itinerary and to register your interest to See the World & See World Theatre. It’s a great experience.

In theater, there is nothing to understand, but to feel.
Louis Jouvert
French actor and director.

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Spoleto Day 7

SPOLETO DAY 7

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

Assisi  and Robert Wilson’s, The Old Woman

Today I was joined by my friend, Rosslyn Blundell, who was visiting me from her Archeological dig in Prato, Tuscany. Assisi is a short train ride from Spoleto, but with the Bob Wilson show starting in Spoleto at 17.30, we committed to see only the Basilica of St Francis to ensure we returned in good time.
Once more the day was very hot and we passed through fields and fields of sunflowers under a clear blue sky. My interest in Assisi stemmed from Sandra Shotlander’s play, Blibd Salomein which I played Bernice. Set in Assisi, the dramatic narrative depicts a contemporary relationship that attempts to echo the relationship of St. Francis and St. Clare but with a twist.
Arriving at the station at Assisi, I was astounded at the hilliness of the location and once more we relied on the community bus to transport us to the Basilica to view St. Frances’ tomb. The church is very grand indeed and scattered throughout the remainder of the hillside are other buildings of religious significance with tourists, and perhaps pilgrims, taking advantage of this special place. In all I think I would have preferred to visit a more humble St. Francis location. I believe that his garden, is somewhere near by but the day was scorching.
For me however another special place was a very cute Trattoria where we escaped the heat and had a beautiful lunch.
Back in Spoletto, the town was alive with excitement. This was the last night of the festival and the main event was The Old Woman at the Theatre Nuevo Carlo Menotti. This is a very grand Opera House that is highly ornamented in the Baroque style. There are 4 levels of boxes and our boxes were centrally located with a centre stage view. Booking tickets and finding they are in a box and not in conventional theatre seating is an experience in itself, in that one scrambles for any seat in any box that is empty if you find yours full!

And now to the show itself. A Robert Wilson production is an experience that I think defies genre. He is a master of light, sound and simple aesthetic in light box style. A good deal of the aesthetic pleasure is derived from shape and form being contrasted against a backlit cyclorama so that even a stage hand moving a piece of furniture has beautiful dark form and shape as she moves across the stage. How do we know its a she? By the shadow play of her body.

The show starts with a madcap front of cloth mime with Baryshnikov and DaFoe establishing a high camp sense of the ridiculous. The cloth itself is decorated in nursery rhyme style with the prominence of a bright red dog. My mind was in a whirl trying to decipher what this was all about. Looking for links and clues as to what I was seeing. Both Baryshnikov and DaFoe are in black suits, white face and Ginger Megs style hair dos which project marvellously in the light box. True, the publicity blurb mentions Absurdism, Beckett and Ionesco and so I was prepared for some degree of intellectual stretching.
Repetition of sparse dialogue, tableaux, and evocative sounds was a feature of the piece and slowly the narrative [?] begins to unfold. The Old Woman take is central to the action and the actors response to her death is another storyline. As a representation of the 20th century Absurdist writer/ poet Daniiel Kharms’ view of the world, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniil_Kharms, the mime and dance were stunning. While the text was in English,with Italian subtitles, there was also a good deal of Baryshnikov dialogue in Russian which seemed to provide a metaphysical element. Sadly this alluded me as it was also translated into Italian and was not part of my comprehension. However my sense of the piece was the self talk and repetition of the human mind and how images and situations are magnified out of proportion. This was achieved by a skeletal chair, bed, door and swing which dwarfed the actors and looke marvellous with the speciality lighting against the cyclorama. My mind was also trying to explore the notion of video or games media but there came a time when I made a conscious decision to let that and all other notions of explanation go by and just let the experience take me where it will. After all isn’t that the whole premise of Absurdism?

And that’s why I believe a Bob Wilson work is an experience. I sincerely hope you, too, have the chance to see this extraordinary work at some time in the future. Wilson’s works tour the world and Australia has had two productions this year. The touring programme can be seen at robertwilson.com/calendar

http://www.mif.co.uk/event/the-old-woman provides a review of the premiere of The Old Woman at the Manchester Festival with some great photos of Baryishnikov and DaFoe.

Spoleto Day 5

Spoleto Day 5
A Rest Day, Shopping and Student Jazz.

I’m having dinner on the hotel terrace overlooking the Roman Theatre and a performance of dance is taking place below me and its very good indeed – but then ballet is not my expertise. But at last I’ve seen something in that theatre and that’s the thing with Spoletto activities are taking place everywhere. The jazz performance also adjacent to the dei Duchi Hotel, drew me from the terrace into the gracious 16 c building next door to see a 30 piece band going through its paces – again it was of a very high standard, perhaps a little too controlled, but the addition of 6 female singers provided good variation from the intensity of so many instruments. Of course it’s all about show and tell and I’m sure there were many parents present and encouragement of art is always important.
Shopping was good too and Duty Free helps to soften the expense. The shops are beautiful and can be found in rather extraordinary lane ways that you’d think would go nowhere much less to exquisite boutiques of leather, luggage, fashion, wine, olive oil, nappery and cashmere. And on and on it goes…..
The reason for my rest from theatre is that the show I wanted to see was out in the county with no transport provided and the opera alternative was €55 for a show that was not on my must see list. Accordingly the money went on shopping and cashmere was highly favored.
I’ve just included a few random photos of Spoleto, I love the green shutters on the buildings. Blue shutters in Greece, green in Spoleto.
More tomorrow.

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SPOLETO DAY 4
Debussy, A Roman Ampitheatre and The Tempest.

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

A very hot day which started for me with a lunchtime piano concert in the Teatro Caio Melisso, an opera house originally built in the 17th century and remodelled and renamed after a Spoleto writer in the 19th century. It is on a much grander scale than the Bevagna theatre, and as the second opera house in Spoleto it was instrumental in Menotti’s decision to reside in Spoleto and to establish the festival here. The photos show the highly decorated cloth and the Roman theatre masks on display in the foyer. The music was charming and included works by Debussy and Satie.
The remainder of the afternoon, I devoted to locating the Roman ampitheatre. In the heat I walked for ages thinking I was going to discover a ruin similar to the ampitheatres in Greece, but not so. As I got to the lower part of the town, I could trace the town wall, discovered the empty moat and some Cyclopean walls similar to those on Agamemnon’s palace. Walking alongside the city wall, it eventually became evident that this was a part of the ampitheatre and that what I was looking at was a colosseum type of building that presented spectacles including the martyrdom of St Gregory.
Anfiteatro Romano – MySpoleto
http://www.myspoleto.it/citta/…/Anfiteatro-Romano.html – confirms it was a site for gladiatorial games and seated 10,000 people!
I’ve taken a photo of the street sign because it took me so long to find, but what a find, a colosseum/ampitheatre that is in the process of being restored. It is not in my theatre research unless I can establish that plays were performed here, but a gem nevertheless. Other photos are of the walk and the shady respites along the way.

The 1st century AD ampitheatre beside my hotel, had not only collapsed in the terrain but had been engulfed in the adjoining monastry and then a prison until 1954. It has finally been restored and unveiled as a ballet and concert performance space.
penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/…/Spoleto/Spoleto/Roman/theatre.html elucidates on the rarity of the paving on the stage, which I have not seen, as it is well covered.

So where does this lack of continuous theatre performance lead me? … to Merida in Spain! Closer to Lisbon than Madrid, it is the site of one the most authentic extant Roman theatres in Europe with all the features of the changes in theatre architecture associated with the Roman developments in theatre. I will be visiting it on the last leg of my journey to see Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. And although I knew of the existence of the theatre, my discovery of The Merida Classical Festival came as one of those freakish things that happen when one is surfing the web. So it this site that I will be exploring in the link between Greek and Roman Theatre long before Italian theatre developed its mystery plays and of course, Commedia del’ Arte – all of which came later- and which in due course, I will explore.

But for now, back to Spoleto and the main reason I am here, even if it is yet another variation in the development of theatre, is to See the World and See World Theatre.
And here, on Day 4 I witnessed exactly that.

Irina Brook is the daughter of the esteemed director and theatre academic, Peter Brook, and as well as being an actress in her own right, she has become an esteemed director, working with Mnouchkine and in developing her own works.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irina_Brook provides a good overview of her work.
With an early evening tempest hitting Spoleto, I borrowed an umbrella and headed up the hill to San Simone to enter the dilapidated medieval church that is now mostly used for performances. And what a great space to house Brooks’ Island Trilogy: The Tempest, The Odyssey, and The Isle of the Slaves.
This evening I was seeing The Tempest and as soon as I entered the dark and gloomy space, I could see the Mnouchkine influence. Pockets of the huge church were scenic display areas. One was a beached and overturned row boat over which young children were playing. Another was a deckchair, a beach umbrella and a young piano accordionist providing jaunty tunes while we queued for the scaffold seating before us and lastly, a somewhat insignificant ladies dressing table and mirror with an empty suit case strewn on the sandy floor.
Sand was everywhere and as we made our way into the playing space we were on an island. One of the players was cooking a meal amongst the immense paraphernalia on a kitchen table. A young woman was writing on a pillar and two surly males were huddled in a corner, one trying to unravel a fishing net, the other being incredibly still.
When the play flew into action, Prospero, is an Italian restauranteur, Ariel, his flashy Maitre D, the fishing net unraveller is Caliban and of course the beautiful young woman writing poetry on the wall is his daughter Miranda.

The play, in French with Italian surtitles, plus some English is a magical romp that only occasionally uses the Shakespearean text and often injects other Shakespearean and Byronic quotes. It is all a truly delicious, magical mayhem. The cast is wonderful, especially Miranda and Caliban and the range of genres that the work employs ranging from hip pop to waltz to replay parody a la Buster Keaton was a delight….in fact it was one delight after another. I congratulated Ms.Brook after the show and she told me it had been 2 years in development in France and that The Odyssey had been 10 years in development. What a marvellous accomplishment. I see both The Odyssey and the Isle of the Slaves on Day 6. I can’t wait to see how she again utilizes the space and how the actors adapt so quickly to two new plays. This production of The Tempest is a must see and I hope it gets picked up for the Melbourne Festival some time soon.

Spoleto Day 3

See the World and See World Theatre

PORNOGRAPHY by Witold Gombrowicz
This was a programme I chose from a deep resistance to the subject material and because I knew very little about this acclaimed Polish writer.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witold_Gombrowicz
My first surprise came when I realized that the theatre for this event, Teatro Francesco Torti of Bevagna was not on the Spoleto map. Where is Bevagna?’ I asked the incredibly helpful Festival Office attendant, ‘in the country’ was the reply, ‘but there is a festival bus to take you there, however you need to book 48 hours in advance.’ I’ve encountered a couple of examples of this sort of bureaucracy in my travels and managed to solve it with a big smile and pleading the ignorance of a foreigner. Anyway, Chiara secured a seat on the bus and in the meantime I took advantage of a free concert in the Largo Di Clementi. It was a 6 piece wind ensemble with the emphasis on saxophones of all sizes plus a clarinet made of gold. When the concert finally got under way, the music was charming.Then off I went to Bevagna with another 60 or so Pornography revellers.
Once more the countryside was beautiful with fields and fields of sunflowers in the 7 pm sunshine.
Arriving at Bevagna was like arriving on a film set that one had seen many, many times.
The town is medieval and Teatro Francesca Torti absolutely amazed me. I am told that these sorts of theatres exist all over Italy, but for me it was a first in that it was a provincial Teatro and did not have the gaudiness of Renaissance theatres. I had booked a ticket in the gods as this production was not high on my list of must-sees, and on arriving in the dizzy and hot heights of Loggione, I was greeted by a swathe of Roman murals on the ceiling and walls. The charming Senorita, informed me that if the theatre was not full I could venture down to the stalls. This I did, prompted by a Philosophy student, and I ended up in a box! What an adventure.
And then 3 hours of the play, thankfully with an interval, when I crossed square for a gelato.
Pornography is set during WW2 and is more a question of voyeurism than pornography. As an adaptation, and an Italian premiere, I believe it could benefit from concerted cutting. One delight for me was the use of the tracks in the stage which could make items of furniture and other paraphernalia appear and disappear at will.There was a performance by a strikingly attractive 40-something woman that was a standout. Not only did she shake with every fibre of her body to indicate her state of anxiety, she later appeared totally naked and blood smeared as a victim of rape and murder. That performance was truly arresting.

In my initial research tracing the development of theatre from Ancient Greek to Ancient Roman theatre, I had been unsuccessful in locating any extant theatres of the medieval period in Italy, let alone theatres presenting early Roman or Christian material. So here I was in a 251 seat Medieval theatre that had been beautifully renovated in the 19th century. Mr Google translated some details for me:

Teatro Francesco Torti, Bevagna
Piazza Filippo Silvestri 06031 BEVAGNA PG Tel 0742 368123 Fax 0742 361647 Type: Theatre E-mail: pbevagna@bcsnet.it – sociali@comune.bevagna.pg.it Disabled access: YES Monumental building: YES Visits: YES Capacity seats: 251
Where is
Torti The theater is located in the main square of Bevagna , a charming medieval village situated on a small hill at the western edge of the Umbrian Valley.
Today the theater is part of the Circuit City Museum which includes a visit to the Museum and the Mosaic of the Roman Baths . In this circuit, recently, it has been joined another, the Cultural Crafts Medieval , with separate ticket or cumulative.

It was once
The theater is housed in Palazzo dei Consoli, built in the thirteenth century.
On the ground floor is still the loggia, covered with three large Gothic arches and a quarter smaller, probably used as commercial space.

Why visit
One of the smaller theaters of Umbria, only 251 seats, is dominated in its limited size by harmony and perfection.
Tastefully decorated, contains interesting paintings nineteenth century, the particular location within a historic building nell’asimmetrica Piazza Silvestri, makes the visit even more striking.

Description
Made in 1886 by architect Antonio Martini, is named after the local scholar Francesco Torti.
The theater has a plant in a horseshoe, three tiers of boxes and a loggia; railings are made from cast iron columns.
The ceiling is the work of Mariano Piervittori and represents the Muses dancing. The original curtain was painted by Domenico Bruschi with Propertius Torti who points to his homeland in 1886 during the restoration of 1994 was another curtain created by the painter Luigi Frappi Bevagna with’ll Clitunno river with poetic and memorial temple.
The coat of arms above the curtain in 1380, donated by Pope Innocent IV, it states “OSF”, which stands for “Ob servatam Fidem.”
After the structural restoration, the theater is regularly active.

Curiosity
The construction of the theater was strongly supported by the citizens who in 1871 had gathered in an organizing committee. The inauguration took place on the evening of August 28, 1886, for the occasion, the impresario Alfredo Wolves staged the ‘Ernani, along with The boarders of Sorrento.

http://www.regioneumbria.eu/default.aspx?IDCont=2570 has a lovely (professional) photo of the theatre.

http://www.teatrostabile.umbria.it/pagine/bevagna-teatro-torti – has a wonderful photo of the ceiling fresco depicting the muses and thus evidence of the carry over from Greek to Roman.

OK so I saw a 20 century piece of theatre, but just finding the theatre was gold and I would certainly include it as a must see if organising a tour. I think this is the first time the theatre has been utilized in the Spoleto Festival but wouldn’t it be great if they could stage a medieval piece in there? Perhaps some of my actor friends and I could do it under Angela O’Brien’s theatre history
guidance.
Any of my theatre cronies up for it? 🙂