Essays on criticism - Theatre Performances
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Maria Grazia Gregori, Journey in the heart of darkness: diversity, madness, clearness and darkness in the path "South - North" by Fanny & Alexander

Franco Cordelli, If Dorothy walks in the fire

Franco Quadri, With two Dorothies, the journey is emotion

Back to top   Journey in the heart of darkness
      Maria Grazia Gregori, L'Unità, 2009 September 25th

Whether you go South or you go North, in the new and surprising show by Fanny & Alexander (South - North, actually), what comes first is the journey as a bodily, mental, rational test to be passed. With some differences. South, the first part of this work, is a journey in the darkness, through impulses that cannot be told. North is a path (of knowledge?) marked by acid lights, green suns. In the first path, as a guide, like a sort of Virgil, there's Dorothy, a girl with a rucksack and a green dress going to the stage from the audience. It's up to her to face Oz, who is far different from the wizard of the well-known movie where Dorothy was played by Judy Garland. This Oz is a theatre ghost who has been Fanny & Alexander's fellow traveller for a long time, a creature inspiring fear and even horror, a cruel manipulator of brains and consciences, quoted in the portrait of a Hitler revised by Charlot hanging on stage, ridicolous with his twisted moustache but not less fearsome in his reactions. South, whose talented protagonist is Fiorenza Menni, is a journey of the heart, a red heart, surrounded by light bulbs like an ex voto. It's the heart that forces to rebellion, to diversity, to the sweet madness of Pippa Bacca who was killed, dressed as a bride, in Turkey. On stage, where two policemen by bicycle act as guardian angels of the actress, suddenly it gets dark: 50 minutes of deep darkness, marked and dilated by recurring music themes (Mirto Baliani, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis among the others), by words used as music, by peremptory orders screamed in the megaphone, by freezing winds, by chants. All around the audience, who cannot see anything and little by little get captured by these sounds, by these bodies passing by that they cannot touch. Until Dorothy reappears in front of a mighty technological landscape made up of 40 huge ventilators...

Everything is clear instead, the clearness of an "enlightened" mind, when in North, the journey starts again with a new Dorothy, a sensory, "physical" Chiara Lagani. The image of Oz-Hitler-Charlot disappeared, to be replaced by a kind of multidimensional mirror which doubles and splits people. So Dorothy is visibly transformed, inside and outside the magic mirror which shows and deforms her. At the very same time Oz "is" Dorothy: because he is inside her and she needs him. An uneven path for which comfortable red ankle boots are required, while obstacles fall from above and where strange encounters can occur. A path paved with music, because on the big pedonium, the electronic musical instrument with a huge keyboards that looks like a floor, the actress walks and tries new steps, she moves cautious or provocative, unleashing varied and disturbing sounds in a fascinating performance.

Back to top   If Dorothy walks in the fire
      Franco Cordelli, Il Corriere della Sera, 2009 November 29th

For a while now, I've been not just a spectator of Chiara Lagani and Luigi de Angelis' company Fanny & Alexander, but a fan; since they made Him, the first chapter of their new saga, the one inspired by "The wizard of Oz". Lagani-de Angelis got us used to sagas, epics, novels divided into episodes, that is into shows. But they never accomplished such a brilliant result like in Him - like a thorn on your side that you can't pull out anymore. What was so outstanding about Him? There was a synthesis, an inextricable short circuit between Evil and Poetry. Till then Fanny & Alexander searched only for poetry, which they identified with youth, or rather with childhood. During their journey, all of a sudden, they ran into poetry's implication - according to Milan Kundera's supreme precept in "The farewell waltz", not his most beautiful novel but his most important one. How often does poetry help to hide evil, Kundera said? Poetry, that is distortion, sublimation, lie. On this level, it's a natural consequence that lower cases become capital letters.

The same thing happens again in South-Norh, another chapter from "The wizard of Oz". They are two shows in one, but they merge to a certain extent. In the second one, evil, or rather Evil, vanishes. Nothing left but Poetry, all the more so with the capital letter. The main character is always her, the one of Frank Baum's movie, Dorothy. In South she declares to be forty years old: "My father - she says - was a woodman and chopped down the trees of the forest. My mother, instead, has a heart disease. It's not a heart pathology. Her heart is just tired". Later on there's a digression on the heart's theme, on the confusion Dorothy makes between heart and clochard, on what clochards mean for her. Then she comes to the point, to what gives to South a not occasional sense.

She recalls Pippa Bacca: "She created a travelling performance, a journey, hitch-hiking, dressed up in a white wedding gown. That artist saw an image: a Middle Eastern bride, hitch-hiking. And from this image of "reality" arose the desire to travel. And then she went to meet obstetricians and puerperae, and she washed their feet. And they embroidered her dress...". Pippa Bacca went to a dangerous place: that was her artwork. "You have to go South, for this". We all remember how she got a lift and then was killed.

When the lights come back on, after being turned off for a long time under the sharp-eyed surveillance of Hitler's portrait with the face of Marco Cavalcoli, who gave his one to Hitler in Him, even Dorothy wears a wedding gown, she becomes Pippa Bacca. Evil and Poetry. In North the central part of South is, so to speak, exalted, sublimated. Dorothy tests the boards of a platform placed on the stage with her red shoes. She talks to us behind a plate hiding her face. Fluorescent lights turn on in the dark. We seem to hear again the whistling wind, the sound of the bells. And then: screams, moans, voices of people arguing, the rustling trees in a forest, the birds at dawn, a blow, the drums beating. Or maybe not. These aren't the sounds of North. These are South's ones. But it's the same. Dorothy keeps on moving forward. She gets down on her knees. Hitler isn't here anymore. There's no-one but her. Her, walking in the water, in the light, in the fire. Dorothy, dissolving.

Back to top   With two Dorothies, the journey is emotion
      Franco Quadri, La Repubblica, 2009 December 5th

The journey which Fanny & Alexander is dedicating to the saga of The Wizard of Oz is a long one, but it's also so fascinating that you wish it could last forever. And now it's about to end with the performances of South-North, where it dives once again into the protagonist's navigation, revealing, under Him's ever-present image of Hitler, two possible different shores, but always with a change of identity. In South, in fact, Dorothy's image coincides with the one of Fiorenza Menni, who contributes to unleash a storm of sounds and noises. In North she is replaced on stage by Chiara Lagani, with a Dorothy who struggles to express herself behind the lens separating her from the audience and blinding her, while the music generated by her steps on the "pedonium" makes this motionless journey even more fascinating.


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Theatre Performances

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

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