“The fire was the cure” at the Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato in Milan – Review by Carlo Tomeo, Milan


After the successful debut at the Teatro Metastasio in Prato, the new show by the Collettivo Sotterraneo conceived and directed by Sara Bonaventura, Claudio Cirri, Daniele Villa, freely inspired by the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and co-produced by Teatro Metastasio, Sotterraneo, Piccolo Teatro di Milano and ERT-Emilia Romagna Teatro, and created with the support of Centrale Fies / Passo Nord.

The show starts from the novel whose plot is told to broaden a discussion that concerns our years and also those that could be in a not so distant future, almost as if to retrace the inspiration received by the writer in 1935 when he described how it could have been be a future time when books would be banned. The Collective describes that world by placing the date in 2051. The work consists of a prologue, three parts in which the actions of the novel are relived and a farewell epilogue. At the beginning the five actors each introduce themselves with a book in their hands. They are Flavia, Davide, Fabio, Cristiana and Radu, the first names of the Company, and they show the fundamental texts considered worthy of being remembered in the future and which they made it a point to learn by heart just as the “book people” of the novel did to save them from destruction. They range from “Infinite Jest” by DF Wallace to Cioran’s Notebooks to “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust but they admit they have difficulty doing it and get stuck from the first page. They then inform us that they are preparing a theater work that they intend to stage, the outcome of which will be known later, and in the meantime they answer the questions that are asked of them by an imaginary audience, which is not the real one in the room.

In the following three episodes they revive the story of the novel which, as is known, takes place in a society of the future where reading is forbidden, so books are banned and those that are discovered are burned by firefighters equipped for the operation while the owner is locked up in a mental hospital. We see the actors as executors of the regime ready to set the accumulated books on fire while the protagonist’s wife, in compliance with the law, is a couch potato of radio and television programs for which virtual participation is required. All in a scenario devoid of objects, apart from the five chairs where the actors sit, with a backdrop occupied by a double screen that reproduces captions and titles of the proposed musical pieces, each of which is linked to the action being performed at that moment , and by lights that illuminate the entire scene with different shades and tones, intense red and yellow to recall the flames of the fire, the true protagonist of the piece together with the music of the show, each of them metaphorically linked to a book: starting from “For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica to “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplaine, from “Leviathan” by Nick Cave to “Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin and above all “Fire Water Burn” by Bloofhoud Gang dominates. News on the genesis of the novel appears on the screens starting from the choice of the title for which it seems that Bradbury had asked a fireman at what combustion temperature paper could remain burned and the answer was given to him as 451 ℉. It was later discovered that the person contacted was a switchboard operator who pretended to be a firefighter and that the value provided was pure invention, but the writer liked the number and used it anyway to complete the title of the book.

In dynamic actions, at a fast pace, the staging continues by moving between a past constituted by the text of the novel to that of the hypothetical future where, however, the mode of communication does not change except in the alternative use of the microphones, used when the characters they turn to the public almost as if they want to make proclamations, and are abandoned when they talk to each other. The action is accompanied at various moments by the roars of jets. The reference to our years is continuous through the writings that appear on the screens and through the dialogues which at times become frantic. We recall, complete with dates, the numerous cases in which over the millennia books were burned because they were considered contrary to the dominant regimes such as those of the Nazi burnings of the works of Jewish authors, the largest of which occurred on 10 May 1933 in Berlin. This is because books are dangerous as they survive humans and the famous novel by Flaubert is given as an example where Madame Bovary, defined as the “bitch”, surpasses the life of her author in terms of fame. There is a moment in which the play seems to abandon its impetuosity to take on a more cautious and painful note: it occurs to the sound of the famous song “I Don’t Want To Set The World On” by the Ink Spots which became particularly popular after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Once cultural death has occurred, the five protagonists find themselves finishing the story of what had happened in the past and questioning themselves about the present. They belong to a generation that lives in a post-dystopian era and carries forward the discourse of opposition and rebellion against totalitarian regimes as happened in the novel, also representing today’s “book people”. Yet we wonder why, if this is the case, they struggle to memorize even just one page of the novels they keep? And why are they rehearsing a play? And how will their show be staged and with what result? All enigmas that will be solved in the ending cloaked in a bitter irony that seems to leave no room for optimism.

At the end, thunderous applause greeted the five actors of the Company, who were called to the stage several times. The performances at the Teatro Studio Melato are still scheduled until Sunday 26th (dates and info at the bottom of the article), then they will continue in other cities including Prato, Turin, Bologna, La Spezia.

Seen on 21 May 2024

(Carlo Tomeo)

Teaser-Fire was the cure – YouTube


Underground creation
concept and direction Sara Bonaventura, Claudio Cirri, Daniele Villa
with Flavia Comi, Davide Fasano, Fabio Mascagni, Radu Murarasu, Cristiana Tramparulo
written by Daniele Villa
lights Marco Santambrogio
stage clothes Ettore Lombardi
plays Simone Arganini
choreography by Giulio Santolini
props Eva Sgrò
technique Monica Bosso
company administrator Luisa Bosi
production Teatro Metastasio di Prato, Sotterraneo, Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa, Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale with the support of Centrale Fies / Passo Nord
artistic residencies Tuscany Residency Center (Armunia Castiglioncello Foundation – CapoTrave/Kilowatt Sansepolcro), La Corte Ospitale, Centrale Fies / Passo Nord
Sotterraneo is an Associated Artist at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, is part of the Fies Factory project and is resident at the ATP Teatri in Pistoia.

Ph. by Masiar Pasquali

Small Studio Theatre (via Rivoli, 6 – M2 Lanza)

from 21 to 26 May 2024

Times: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 7.30 pm; Wednesday and Friday, 8.30pm; Sunday, 4pm

Duration: 90 minutes without intermission

Prices: stalls 40 euros, balcony 32 euros

Information and reservations 02.21126116 – www.piccoloteatro.org

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