Hedda Gabler

9, 10, 11/05 > 20:30
12/05 > 22:00
13/05 > 15:00
Language: Italian
Simultaneous translation: FR & NL

A beautiful bourgeois woman commits suicide. Hedda’s death makes it onto the news in a newsflash that heightens our curiosity, making us want to know more about someone we did not know. We will be given access to the conversations that preceded her fatal act, in close-up on a large screen. Through a transparent screen you can see the actors, characters in Hedda’s life and in her town. “We don’t tell stories now like we used to,” say the actors from Teatrino Clandestino. “More than being concerned with honouring the person who wrote the work, we want to respect the audience of today who is listening to it.” For these actors working on dialogue and the story’s intimacy, cinema is not an end in itself, but has a theatrical function – a new form of mask from antiquity, a new kind of painted canvas…

Texte et mise en scène/Tekst en regie/Text and direction: Pietro Babina

Avec/Met/With: Fiorenza Menni (rôle principal/hoofdrol/head comedian), Renata Salmini, Michele Cipriani, Pietro Pilla, Giorgio Porcheddu

Production vidéo/Video productie/Video production: Francesco Borghesi

Scénographie/Scenografie/Scenography: Pietro Babina (concept), Federico Babina (conception/ontwerp/design), Luca Piga (réalisation/realisatie/realization)

Musique/Muziek/Music: Pietro Babina, Recoil

Costumes et décor/Kostuums en decor/Costumes and decorations: Fiorenza Menni

Promotion et organisation/Promotie en organisatie/Promotion and organization: Marcella Montanari, Francesca Leonelli

Production/Productie/Production: Teatrino Clandestino (Bologna)

Avec la collaboration de/In samenwerking met/In collaboration with: La Biennale di Venezia, ERT Emilia Romagna Teatro

Avec le soutien de/Met de steun van/Supported by: Istituto Italiano di Cultura

Présentation/Presentatie/Presentation: KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Their story together began in 1987 at the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica in Bologna. The three of them, Manuel, Fiorenza and Pietro, had chosen this route to bring them closer to their great passion – theatre, the theatre as an object of fantasy, a place of mystery where they can work at bringing alive the most secret imaginative worlds. But at the Accademia they came up against school-like academicism. They went to theatres in the city, but in the Bologna of the time they found only a version of Italian theatre that to their thinking was obsolete. “We were so pretentious and idealistic!” So they ended up going instead to the film theatre which offered the public an unending display of nuggets of international and Italian cinema. They spent hours there, watching up to 5 films a day. When they left college they decided to form their own group and search for what they felt was so desperately lacking on the stage – the spontaneity and trueness to life that they were so moved by in the cinema.

They needed somewhere to work. There was nothing for young theatre groups, no funding or studio for them to rehearse in. They decided a disused factory would do the job. Space was limited, but they found one where they could begin working. They cleaned it, organised it and then wrote Teatrino on the door. They then added Clandestino because they were squatting there without permission but also “because of the extent of our isolation and ignorance!”. On the very first day of rehearsals, a mechanical digger beat them to it and razed the building to the ground. They then moved to an old disused cinema in Fiorenza’s home village. For one year, alone and in secret, they destroyed everything that could not make them fall in love with the theatre of the time. They followed their intuition and formulated firm beliefs that were to stay with them throughout their odyssey. They rejected all hierarchy, beginning with the decision-making predominance of a director, and had great confidence in the actor’s imagination and in every theatre profession. They worked constantly on the fragile spontaneity of emotions, a quest for intimacy with the audience – how to tell a ‘storia’ that was within reach of the audience’s senses, within reach of their hearts, without a barrier getting in the way.

With a mischievous twinkle in their eyes, Clandestino distributed a small red cross on white paper as people went into all their performances. Is it a key unlocking the way to the land of dreams? “We did it after Mondo(Mondo) in 1995. The main character, a medium, was shut in a box and couldn’t be seen by the audience. He only spoke through the poems of Giovanni Pascoli. Assuming he was ill, the others took care of him. All the audience could see was his reflection in a mirror. In it we were testing out the power of presence – the ghost of a person was more captivating than his flesh… The end of it was a homage to the final images from the magnificent film by Tarkovski, The Sacrifice, and to the last words spoken by its hero, the holder of a great truth that he was unable to reveal – ‘I’m being taken away by a red cross’. Besides this we were fascinated by the reaction we all have when an ambulance goes by in the street. We watch it, wondering who it is, whether he’s going to die, what happened to him. A red cross touches our lives and there we are needing the story behind it!”

At first Clandestino provided their own inspiration for stories, then derived it from the poets Pascoli and Mayakovsky, then from the scientists who explained the first marvels of electricity(Idealista Magico), from playwrights, Sartre (No Exit), Shakespeare (Hamlet, The Tempest, Othello) and Ibsen (A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler). “We’re not interested in getting ourselves bound up with the same aesthetics. What is important is that we get as close as possible to the audience’s story.” For three years, Pietro, Manuel and Fiorenza worked intensely on the form of dialogue – “what spurts out ‘between’ two people when they talk opens a new space in which the audience can participate.” But when you work with Shakespeare or Ibsen, you come across the same stumbling block, the same accounts – “The language these stories were written in at the time conceal them from us now. Don Juan, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet existed long before Molière and Shakespeare gave us their version of things! Why should we fossilise the form in which they gave them to us? A story is valid the moment that the need for it to be told arises. A mother telling her child the story of Snow White today doesn’t follow the Brothers Grimm to the letter. To bring life to a story you have to respect the person listening to it.”

But before rewriting or transforming a story whose structure was written down in the past, Clandestino tested out their intuitions. They asked a variety of people to read Hedda Gabler and then to come back later and tell its story. After reading it, these outside people returned to relate its contents – “It’s about a woman who kills herself…” There’s no psychological build-up leading to its dazzling conclusion with suicide. This was anticipated. However, Ibsen took four acts to depict the character, life, town and relationships of the secretive, brilliant, beautiful and bitter Hedda. “So we turned the epilogue into a prologue – newspaper headlines. It seemed more contemporary – people are keen to learn about the background to an event when the event has taken place.”

Following Please Do Not Discuss the Doll’s House (1999), Clandestino have also introduced filmed images into their performances. “It came about very intuitively. We were working on the dialogue. We wanted to take the audience inside the dialogues and we were frustrated that they could lose these tiny nuances, the subtleties of expression on the actor’s face. We were in the process of thinking about this loss. In amphitheatres, ancient Greeks used the masks of Comedy and of Tragedy to accentuate expression. When the mask stopped being this tool of accentuation, it shrank in size on the actors’ faces and Commedia dell’Arte was born. It was the actor’s body movements that were being accentuated, then his voice. We didn’t want to accentuate things – it sounds false and is old-fashioned. We filmed the dialogue in close-up and projected the blown-up faces onto a transparent screen. Then we felt that an even greater impact was made if the physical action took place away from the audience – put the actors at the back and bring forward their faces, superimpose the micro and the macro. This reinforced the magic of theatre, marrying faces and bodies. The film acted as a mask but its technique is more modern and closer to what we are looking for.”

“For Hedda Gabler we continued our work as actors on dialogues. The masks became ancient, neutral ‘super masks’, each actor’s face finally being filmed separately facing the camera. The play is more complex, it has more characters, the city bursts into it and, with it, social relationships. This time the screen has been enlarged to receive three autonomous projections. On either side are frontal views of the blown-up faces of characters who have already been ‘separated’. In the middle the painted canvas of yesteryear, the famous trompe-l’oeil of Italian theatre, has become a moving picture, transporting the imagination into the story’s inner time and its outer spaces. Behind is the enormous lit stage, with actors in the flesh and their secret physical separation from which every unnecessary expression has been supplanted with what is being told on screen.” It is a trembling chronicle of death foretold.....

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