7.8.10/05 > 20:30
9.11/05 > 15:00
Italian - Subtitles: NL & FR - Creation -

Last year, audiences were seduced by Hedda Gabler , with its close-up video projections and actors positioned at the rear of the stage. The young Italian company is returning this year with The Iliad, a text from the eighth century BC. Agamemnon has taken the beautiful woman Achilles loves, incurring the wrath of Achilles, the hero with the pierced heel. The Iliad begins with this wrath and ends, 24 episodes of war and conflict later, with Hector’s funeral. For the ‘Teatrino’, “it is not about choosing a work only to go on and violate the essential features of it. If we pervert the relationship in it between the actor, the character, his voice and his image, it is to remain within the genre of the ‘oral tradition’, evoking The Iliad of yesterday with the traditions and means available to us today.”

Director : Pietro Babina

Actors : Marco Valerio Amico, Alessandro Cafiso, Massimiliano Martines, Mauro Milone, Andrea Mochi Sismondi, Manfredi Siragusa

Capocomicato : Fiorenza Menni

Technical production : Giovanni Brunetto (scène/plateau/stage)

Sound Design : Studio Arkì

Set design : Pietro Babina (concept), Giovanni Brunetto (realisatie/réalisation/realisation)

Promotion & organisation : Marcella Montanari

Logistics : Chiara Fava

Administration : Francesca Leonelli

In collaboration with : Riccione TTV & ETI, Xing, Studio Arkì

Production : Teatrino Clandestino (Bologna)

Coproduction : Le-Maillon Théâtre de Strasbourg, Santarcangelo dei Teatri (Santarcangelo di Romagna), KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Presentation : Théâtre 140, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Members of the audience, you have just been given a red cross.

Teatrino Clandestino:

" The red cross is the aesthetic essence of our Teatrino because every time an ambulance goes by, we’re there needing stories. We wonder who’s in the ambulance, whether he’s going to die, whether he has any family close by.”

“…The red cross held between your fingers is the sign of this call, so be prepared…”

Teatrino Clandestino, meaning ‘secret little theatre’, comes from the name they gave their first rehearsal studio.


“It wasn’t very big. The factory had been abandoned by its workers and, consequently, by the world at large. No sooner had we put a little sign on the door saying ‘Teatrino’ than a bulldozer came and razed the building to the ground.”

Obviously no one had demolished the old factory (the Bulex) on the outskirts of Brussels where, during the 2001 Festival, they presented a Scandinavian, Hedda Gabler, adapted from Ibsen’s play; indeed “a city had been built from houses inspired by the silhouettes of German expressionist cinema”. (Les, 11.05.01)


“Hedda was bored as much by her husband as by the dramaturgical form she found herself in.”

The Clandestinos (Pietro Babina and Fiorenza Menni) believe in anarchy…


“In the sense that we aren’t looking for everyone to be in agreement with everyone else. We each have a clearly defined role – Fiorenza is in charge of acting, Pietro is the director and dramaturge – and we stick to them.”

During the 2001 Festival, their imagery-filled interpretation of Hedda Gabler – played by Fiorenza Menni – was enthusiastically received by festival-goers, and we were keen to be involved in their new creation this year, even before its concept had been developed. From Si prega di non discutere di Casa di Bambola (1999), based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, to Otello (2000), Hedda Gabler (2001) and now the Iliad, video has played a prominent role in each production.


“That’s right. But it’s never been a case of repeating the same aesthetic over and over again – video has been a necessity every time. In Si prega di non discutere di Casa di Bambola, filming expressions on faces was our attempt to gain an inroad into the dialogue’s intimacy. In Otello, the video captured different places in the characters’ city and served to expand on the stage design. In Hedda Gabler, we worked on the dialogue and stage design.”

“In the past video reinforced the narrative structure. By perverting the relationship between the actor, the character, his voice and his image, video allows us to emphasise the evocative force found in the epic poem, the Iliad. We’re going to split everything up – the voice on one side (live voices or pre-recorded soundtracks), the character on the other (video images) and the one recalling it (the actor on stage). It is not about a feat of technology, it’s about cutting ties for the audience to then reconnect them in their own way. We don’t feel obliged to use new technologies – it’s not about being modern. But why shouldn’t we use them?”

It was in the eighth century BC, during the ‘Greek Renaissance’, that different versions of the Iliad began circulating throughout Greece. Greek bards, who were singer-poets, dipped into an ancient repertoire, creatively improvising the set formulae to a greater or lesser extent. Was Homer one of them?


“The way stories are told has changed. We don’t build houses now like we used to, and the same applies to writing. What’s important to us in the Iliad is the work’s essence.

It tells of wars and battles in twenty-four ‘rhapsodies’. Now, since the events of September 11th, there is a lot of talk about war.


“After the decline of the Roman Empire, after the French Revolution, after the Russian Revolution, after the First and Second World Wars, people kept on doing theatre. It’s the only art form where a work written by people is presented to other people. If we didn’t think it was sensible and necessary to do theatre, why would we spend so much time doing it? Because we’re mad? Well, maybe we are. Good.””

Despite its name – Ilion is another name for Troy – the Iliad does not contain all the best-known episodes of the Trojan war: Helen’s abduction, Achilles’ death, the Trojan horse, the destruction of the city, the flight of Aeneas and Anchises etc.


: “We wanted to respect the work’s poetic value without updating it or drawing a parallel with the current war. That’s just too simplistic. It’s true that war is one of the poem’s pretexts but, on a note more poetic than philosophical, the Iliad is primarily about Man, about mankind.”

Agamemnon, an Achaean, has taken the beautiful slave girl with whom Achilles was in love. The Iliad begins with the wrath of Achilles, the hero with the pierced heel, and ends with Hector’s funeral. After piercing a hole in each of Hector’s heels and passing a leather strap through them, Achilles attaches the body to his chariot and rides several times round the walls of Troy. Very violent!


: “We’ve paid less attention to the intellectual side of things, and focused more on what our instincts told us. We’ve retained the characters’ names to keep the paradigmatic whole intact. We wouldn’t choose a work like this only to go on and violate the essential features of it.”

It is said that the Iliad’s composition is more elaborate than any other poem communicated by the oral tradition. The different levels of time in the writing doubtless explain why it is difficult to make out what was really intended by the Iliad.


“From our point of view, it’s not about making it lyrical or melodramatic. The Iliad is already a score that suggests its tones and instruments – non-existent and awaiting invention at times. Over the course of a year we held workshops – four to be exact – with actors selected from all over the country. During these early stages of our work, we questioned the technological process at the same time as its narrative and poetry, chapter by chapter.”

Is re-writing an existing work one way of avoiding writing a new one?


: “Using a well-known work doesn’t make things easier. The exact opposite in fact. It lays us open to comparison and, worse, conservatism. Our interest is in theatrical form, and this is more obvious and stronger when you work on an ancient text born of tradition. Any changes made to its form show up more clearly.”

The Iliad is not the starting point of a religion, even if there is an Homeric cult, nor is it the beginning of a political movement, even if there is a temptation to draw some political lessons from it (…) Homer’s genius is located at the exact point of the transition from the oral poetic tradition to the establishment of the written word.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet in L’Iliade sans travesti, Gallimard, 1975


: “In other words, it’s about looking for a way in which the Iliad can be told today. Recounting without acting, evoking without performing, in a nutshell remaining in the genre of the ‘oral tradition’ whilst giving new life to it. In one of the workshops, we experimented with the possibility of translating physical action into sounds or words. We ended up developing a software program that allows us to break up the filmed stage into different areas, each of which, independently of each other, can emit a sound in liaison (or not) with the actor’s movement or with the part of his body or area in shot. And this is the way we’re going to tell the story today.”

Fiorenza Menni and Pietro Babina were interviewed in November 2001.

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