Essays on criticism - Theatre Performances
      Aqua Marina

Rodolfo Sacchettini, Empty rooms, in the dark. Fanny & Alexander's challenge

    Empty rooms, in the dark.
Fanny & Alexander's challenge
      Rodolfo Sacchettini, Lo Straniero, May 2005

Another tessera adds to the mosaic of Fanny & Alexander from Ravenna. After Ardis I, Ardis II and some musical projects, a new vision enriches the Ada project from Nabokov’s work. Aqua Marina – the first night at the Goldoni theatre of Bagnacavallo - follows the previous stages, but it goes back to the beginning of the story, lost in the painful events of the two twins Aqua and Marina. They love the same man (Demon- Marco Cavalcoli) and they are the mothers, one false and one true, of the two main characters, the brothers/cousins Ada and Van.

Inside a typical Italian-style theatre, the audience is invited to enter with a survival kit which contains the essential warnings for the play. The kit consists of a pencil in order to solve the cryptograms and a white and red pill (hallucinogen or suicide?). The curtain is closed. And when it raises, it’s only for a moment, just the time to see a shining count down that begins the once-upon-a-time, pronounced letter by letter through lighting spotlights. The unmoving and unchangeable structure of the theatre welcomes a play that seems as if it would never start. The depth of the stage is immediately denied by the obstinate closing of the curtain that seems to be an unequivocal signal of the impossibility to start the play. Aqua (Chiara Lagani) comes in by showing, each time, her feet, her hands, crouching to the ground and stroking a teddy bear. From the fold of the curtain not only other hands appear, but also the white dressed shape of Marina (Francesca Mazza) and soap bubbles. Presences and objects that are soon sucked inside, into the space denied to the vision. From magic threshold the curtain takes the form of an insurmountable wall where the sight, by flattening itself, can’t do nothing more than playing hide-and-seek, as if we were between the curtains of our houses looking for an access key or for a key-hole to peep through.

It’s immediately clear that the black heart of the story lies in a mystery to be solved, in a secret to be revealed. And the audience, if it accepts the scene agreement, must take the responsibility of being the ones who watch. The audience must pay attention in order to catch and worm out clues, evidences, ciphered code, because the play is full of them. Even if the story goes on in a seemingly simple way in a succession of a wedding, an adultery and a childbirth - an imaginary birth, as the shining cryptogram says - the play is about a question: who is Van’s mother? But the question mark is only in part related to the plot of the story, because the strongest feeling is that Aqua Marina is a story of questions made up of gestures, sounds and cryptograms…..

The riddle of the story is not only told, but it is as if it were the diaphragm through which the vision takes shape. As in Spider by Cronenberg the schizophrenic glance tells the story of a schizophrenic, so in Aqua Marina through the insane brain of Aqua we read the events of an alienation. All the simple things that occur on the stage seem to be encrypted images. It is as if every gesture, dialogue, bright signal or musical presence refers to something else and as if it opens unknown references. Even if it constantly re-fers to nothing, as when the curtain rises, revealing another black curtain and another one, made of sounds, gestures and words. So to rise the curtain means to state the obvious. It’s impossible, the risk is to plunge into a chasm.

After Ardis II which staged the failure of language in the hypertrophic exhibition of the intelligence, Aqua Marina now appears above all as a receding, not only in the story. The target is portrayed in Aqua’s brain and the system of the connections is crossed as the only possible course where the “parts” and the “partiality” of the stage gain sense. If the stage is shown as a nervous tissue, it is also true that everything appears as if it were lowered into a strange amniotic fluid, which veils the eyes but opens the ears, as during the gestation, the uterine state where the sound, subverting the physics law, comes first than light. We are inside a brain, but we are also inside an uterus because Aqua Marina is constantly wetting and accompanied by the resounding steady drip of water, and also because it’s a liquid vertigo which draws on the story’s target the teardrops or the paths of the disease.

The pain and disease of the scene, like a cyphered call for help, hit the audience, that in the anxiety of the unveiling has in its hands a system of Chinese boxes where the condemnation to emptiness takes shape in the presence of the elements from the stage: curtain, gestures, lighting, words and sounds. These objects appear as an endless reflection of appearances, where the decay of one surface on the other opens continuous and painful black holes. And if the eye falls in the eddy of the stage it’s only because it wants to lose itself another time in the surface of language.

Aqua Marina, as the entire Ada project, is first of all a Fanny & Alexander challenge to theatre. In these days of standardization and returns to the order, running the risk of a serious reflection on theatre is a rare choice, but it’s also the only possibility if you don’t want to die. Behind the folds of the curtain the ob-scene is hidden, you cast a glance at the darkness and you find that the room is empty, that everything is clear and that there is nothing. You wander about the theatre, as in 3-Iron by Kim-Ki-Duk, and you feel that the ob-scene breathes on your neck. Then you understand that it is in the shadow of your glance, in those 180 degrees, flat as death, of craziness and invisibility you cannot enter.

(translation by Stefania Lugaresi)


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