Essays on criticism - Theatre Performances
      Ardis I (Les Enfants maudits)

Renato Palazzi, The troubled depths of adolescence

Franco Quadri, The doomed children inside the magic box


The troubled depths of adolescence
      Renato Palazzi, Domenica, supplemento a Il Sole 24 Ore, 6th July 2003

After a first journey among the logical paradoxes and the odd atmospheres of Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, the young group Fanny & Alexander faces again the theme of ambiguities and unfathomable anxieties of adolescence, deriving from another refined explorer of this turbid and unsteady universe, Vladimir Nabokov.

Ardis I, inspired by the initial chapters of the novel Ada, really opens a stratified path inside a work that suggests at one time a bright family fresco, a tale of a precocious incestuous passion and an indirect consideration about art and its instruments.

The secret intricacy of the love between the twelve years old protagonist and the fifteen years old Van, who are officially cousins but actually brother and sister, reveals itself in an indirect way: leaks with hints, grows trough the light chirp, the puns, the dazzling natural abandonment that characterise the world of Ardis Hall, the ancestral mansion in which the story begins. Fanny & Alexander wanted to evoke this very anxious climate of the mythical house, setting the play in an old and still inhabited building of Ravenna, obtaining a room that is real and fictitious at the same time, a trompe l’oeil, a wunderkammer, a tiny and ingenious theatre of apparitions.

From inventions of Nabokov to quotes from Magritte, Ardis I – which will be followed by other six “dwellings” or stages in the novel’s structure – does not develop the event in a finished performance, but it fragments it, it reflects it like a broken mirror would do, it transform it in a kind of metaphor of the reading, in which middle does not stand the read text but the reader himself. As a matter of fact, what else could embody the motionless character, sitting on a minuscule chair at the sides of the space, silent spectator of gusts and bits of plot, a bit of an accidental voyeur and maybe a bit of an ideal projection of Van, now grown and knocked over by memory?

As to Ada, the sister Lucette and the servant Blanche, they “exist” only behind the wall, but thanks to a flashing invention we perceive only some single anatomic parts, eyes, mouths, ears that manifest and, in a way, they stretch monstrously from the cavities of minuscule frames hanged on the wall, like parts of an inaccessible whole, segments of an enigmatic inner landscape that lives and moves outside the surfaces of the pictures. Other frames show emblematic anagrams (like “insects-incests” that sounds so typical of Nabokov), sequences of old porn films, digital images with strong symbolic abstractions.

The opening of other two “windows” lets glimpse the playing musicians. This very accompaniment, composed of excerpt for piano and ondes Martenot, is essential to give an intense acoustic equivalent of the visionary “chamber cinema”. Voices, sounds and scenic clues converge in a faultless expressive scheme, which perhaps lacks of an instant of sharp stylistic rupture that could intervene and strike the even too elegant drawing.

(translation by Livia Lo Presti)


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  The doomed children inside the magic box
      Franco Quadri, la Repubblica, 22nd June 2003

Since a long time Fanny & Alexander are attracted by the secrets of infancy and by an innocence which ignores its own natural morbidity. They are incomparable when they take possession of these themes and pretend to be far from them, so that they can conduct the audience among the interstices of enigmatic situations.

This is what happens right now, in a resource of sacred places like Ravenna, inside a wonderful mansion that serves as a House of Arts and where the group, guided by Luigi de Angelis and Chiara Lagani, could invent a room inside another, in order to set Ardis I (Les Enfants maudits). This is the first of seven instalment dedicated to Ada by Vladimir Nabokov, hoping that not each of them will be realized, so that the anxious climate in which Van remembers his encounter with Ada, a new-found sister, and the rising of a new and incestuous passion of an entire life, will not betray the atmosphere.

Actually, the dumb narrator is the only character inside the room, sitting on a tiny chair, springing from his mind recorded words of the story, among the music for piano and the thrilling effects of the ondes Martenot.

The room is strewed with signs from the works of Magritte and it changes into a boîte à surprise of the thought, in which every picture can animate with real faces or images, and the minuscule picture-frames can become real mouths, breasts and sexual organs in magical mirror images and with apparitions that can make us travelling without moving, across a mental and sometimes palpable path, up to a point in which we create the charm of time scents that sort out from our unconscious.

(translation by Livia Lo Presti)


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