Essays - Interviews

Antonio Caronia, The vertigo of enigma

  The vertigo of enigma
      Antonio Caronia, DROME magazine, number 9, 2007

The theatrical group Fanny & Alexander was founded in Ravenna around 1992 by Luigi de Angelis and Chiara Lagani, who still run it today. Between 1993 and 1999, shows such as Cantico dei cantici, Con mano devota, Ponti in core, Sinfonia majakovskiana (with Teatrino Clandestino), Sulla turchinità della fata, reflected their growth, up to demanding productions such as Requiem (2001) and the various phases of the project Ada, Cronaca familiare (2002-2004), inspired by the Nabokov novel. Their most recent production is Heliogabalus, about the young Roman Emperor. Fanny & Alexander's most palpable quality is their deliberate reversal of codes - which executes a continual and radical challenge to the viewer's perception - and a refined visual culture. But all this is secondary to an attentio to ward and rigorous examination of language, which runs through all of their work and culminates (right up to today) with the "impossible tongues" included in Heliogabalus,an explicit homage to both Oulipo and Tommaso Landolfi. The theme of the double recurs in many of their works and the interview revolved around this topic. Chiara Lagani replied to our questions.

With "Heliogabalus" it seems like the first time that you're dedicating yourselves to a real "character analysis". How did you tackle the theme of indentity in the case of a character so explicitly "doubled" (on the sexual level, but not only)?

We were told on several occasions that Heliogabalus seemed like "a theorem on the abolition of community", and this is definitely true, but it'also true that it's a theorem on the tortured desire for the restoration of an abolsihed community, starting from the most fundamental question, which is precisely that of identity. Heliogabalus is the "two in one", within him is the question of relationship; the same question that was at the basis of the pieces from the Ada project radicalizes, interiorizes, makes incarnate a primary, elementary moment. While - in the pieces from the Ada  project - this question lays behind the same representative possibilities of that particular story, in Heliogabalus the same question issue is actually a body and its main proposal: the hermaphroditic. The scandal of Heliogabalus is that his body - his primary charter of existence - already irreparably poses the fundamental question about the relationship with the Other, from himself to himself. Because of this, the first question our Heliogabalus asks himself on the stage is that regarding identity: "Who are you?". It's only through a slow and ruthless (not univocal) elaboration of the answer to this question that Heliogabalus is finally able to represent himself as the ulterior and living figure of the community to the community (and is this not, in the end, Heliogabalus' real death?). I would even say that the show's dramaturgy constitutes a perhaps-impossible attempt to provide an answer precisely to the question of identity. Bit by bit, this query generaters others, of the linguistic ("What can I say?", "Does anybody understand what I'm saying?"), formal, or political kind. The problem of Heliogabalus' identity is so complex as to constitute the actual dramaturgic proposition, which presents three actors-dancer alternately embodying the indescribable or perhaps impossible character of the Emperor. This crux - that of the interrupted relationship - has a profoundly sexual matrix, as it existed in another measure in Ada and as it exists in Landolfi's text on incest that we're working on know.

In your pieces, the work with language always has a relevant position, with the use of non-theatrical materials that you re-contextualize into the dramaturgy, or by choosing riddling materials. Stefano Bartezzaghi, the inventor of riddles and intellectual who collaborated with you for "Ada, cronaca familiare", mantains that riddle-solving is a "science of the double". Do you feel the same?

Indeed, the same type of discourse is mirrored (or is the mirror) by the two linguistic puzzles dealt with rather obsessively in our pieces of recent years: the impossible riddle of language. When Bartezzaghi talks about riddle-solving as a "science of the double" he's naturally referring not only to the game's technical-linguistic context - that always anticipates a second sense, a second latent reading (that "doubles" the first linguistic level) - but also to the ethical, aesthetic and philosophical implications of the question of the double in the puzzle: the puzzle doubles in meaning, doubles in he who asks and who responds (and vice versa), doubles in the question and answer and, out of all this, derives a concentrated form that always alludes to a latency, a perhaps overwhelming emptiness. I always say that the discourse on impossible language (in Heliogabalus and in Oz project) is only the same discourse about enigma that was already conducted in Ada but taken to the extreme: in this case as well as we alluded to a common meaning, located in the pit of one's stomach, to an intuition or at least dual cooperation, whose substantial and perhaps utopian background has, as its center, always the same problem of love.

It seems that also the staging and architectural aspect of your mis-en-scene often plays on duplicity. I remember the Romeo and Juliet that you presented at "Interzona", in Verona, in 1999, in which there were in fact two separate shows, with two different audiences, separated by a wall that, in the end, tumbles down. Which is the relationship, in your work, between the "linguistic doubling" and the visual?

The double staging of the Unhappy Story of Two Lovers - Romeo and Juliet is only the most representative in this sense (because it was structurally conceived for a "double" situation). But also in every scene of the Ada project there was always a persistent recourse to two spaces, two places either physical or mental (an exterior and an interior, a before and behind, inside and outside): just as it happened in the small room in Ardis I, which also received the spectator Van - catapulting him into a story (his own) that took place beyond that room; and so forth in several other pieces from that project. I think that this funneling of theme of the "double" finds it center in a fundamental geometric figure: that of the line of separation, of demarcation that is found in both: curtain, wall, eyelids... It's about a line at time delineates, at times is so thin that it streches into nothingness. Nevertheless this line always exists and upon it rests a fundamental question central to every representational concept (and to art), because it is precisely the line, the separation, that controls any mixing and every principle of polarity; watch out if you forget about it! What was it in Shakespeare's insight that alluded to this in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which provided us with our inspiration for the staging of our Romeo and Juliet in Verona? In the Dream the wall is not a prop but an actual active character, which prevents the doomed lovers' meeting, this "vile wall" in a manner "right and sinister", in a retring gesture, ends up with-drawing from the stage: "Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so; and being done, thus Wall away doth go".

Theatre shows

Grey Speech | WEST | NORTH | SOUTH | Kansas | AMORE (2 atti) | HIM | Dorothy | Heliogabalus | Vaniada | Aqua Marina | Ardis II | Ardis I

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