La Festa

19, 22, 23/05 > 20:00
20/05 > 18:00
24/05 > 22:00
Language: Italian
Subtitles: Nl & Fr
Duration : 50'

In the kitchen, the madre and padre can be found on their thirtieth wedding anniversary, with their only son, Gianni. It is a unique place where its doors and windows are blocked up with words. They come thick and fast, curtly, with venom – unbearable nonsense spills forth. Occasionally all sweetness and light, the family clings to one other only to find they are suffocating each other even more. Every dialogue stirs the saturated air which is in increasingly short supply. The same thing happens over and over again, and they behave with such stubbornness that it just comes across as totally comic. Yet it is so oppressive that there is a sense of the absurd in it all. Spiro Scimone and Francesco Sframeli are both actors: acting is their great passion.They formed their company together in 1990, after working with Carlo Cecchi in Palermo. La Festa is the third play written by Spiro, his first in Italian. Nunzio (1993) and Bar (1997) were both written in the Sicilian dialect. The writing is a score to be played, the actor is the voice of its music, what is left unsaid.

Texte / Tekst / Text: Spiro Scimone

Mise en scène / Regie / Direction: Gianfelice Imparato

Assistant à la mise en scène / Regie-assistent / Assistant to the director:

Leonardo Pischedda

Avec / Met / With: Francesco Sframeli, Nicola Rignanese, Spiro Scimone

Scénographie / Scenografie / Scenography: Sergio Tramonti

Musique / Muziek / Music: Patrizio Trampetti

Régisseur de scène / Toneelmeester / Stage manager: Santo Pinizzotto

Son / Klank / Sound: Giovanni Famulari

Construction du décor / Decorbouw / Set building: Mekane s.r.l.

Organisation / Organisatie / Organisation: Giovanni Scimone diffusé par / verspreid door / distributed by Associazone cadmo / le vie dei festival,

Natalia Di Iorio & Paola Ermenegildo

Production / Productie / Production: Comagnia Scimone Sframeli (Roma)

en collaboration avec / in samenwerking met / in collaboration with

Fondazione Orestiadi di Gibellina

Présentation / Presentatie / Presentation: Bellone-Brigittines,


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“In our opinion, the problem with theatre is not that it doesn’t know how to speak, but more than anything that it doesn’t know how to listen. If you don’t how to listen, you don’t know how to speak.

Spiro Scimone and Francesco Sframeli are first and foremost actors. The two of them were born in 1964 in Messina, an industrial port in northwest Sicily, and studied drama together in Milan. They then met Carlo Cecchi, the inspired director who works in the magical ruins of the Teatro Garibaldi in Palermo, where the hum of the street combines with the clamour from the theatre. Spiro and Francesco both acted in his trilogy, ‘Shakespeare al Teatro Garibaldi’, which comprised Amleto, Sogno di una notte di... and Misura per Misura, and was performed at the Festival d’Automne in Paris and in Strasbourg. In 1990, they formed the company that bears their name, anxious to intensify the resources contained within the actor’s art – their reason for living. Spiro Scimone started writing, “not because I felt a need to write, but to dream up a textual score to act, material that body, soul and voice could grab hold of and transform into theatrical language.”

Nunzio was written in 1993, a one-act text for two characters. Nunzio is employed in a chemical plant, and Pino, his friend, is a contract killer. Both migrated from southern Italy to a small town in the north, and share a modest flat, looking out for each other. Between two contracts and two plane rides, Pino comes home to find Nunzio seriously ill, wandering about in his pyjamas. An inner dialogue takes place between the ailing man who just wants to wait and see and refuses to look after himself, and his tough nomadic hero, who is soft at heart – both alone in the world and partners in misfortune. It is a modest and blunt conversation, soothed by little rituals and verses of dreams. Spiro and Francesco acted the roles of the two friends, and were directed by Carlo Cecchi who was immediately won over by the sharp and effective writing of these dialogues whose colour comes from the Sicilian dialect heard in Messina.

Bar came to the stage three years later, directed by Cecchi’s assistant, Valerio Binasco. It is an original and tense one-act text for two characters, and takes place over four crucial days in the lives of Nino and Petru. Hidden in the back room of a bar, one dreams of running his own café, the other, unemployed, is getting himself involved with small-time mafia. The dirty money from one of them could make the dream of the other become reality, but their motivations are very different. What they have in common is their ignorance and complete ineffectiveness. Night after night, they hold the same never-ending discussions. It is an unpredictable theatrical game – quick and merciless. Again, Spiro and Francesco performed it in the Messina dialect.

The play was extremely well received in Italy for evoking the cruelty of Harold Pinter, the absurd and metaphysical comedy of Beckett and the poetic roughness of Fassbinder. More than anything, it stresses the powerful singularity of ‘this language to be acted out’, drawing naturalism towards surrealism. These first two plays received praise as much for the way they were written as for the way they were performed. Franco Quadri, a distinguished critic on La Repubblica and director of theatrical publishers Ubu Libri, encouraged Spiro Scimone to write a new piece. La Festa emerged in the summer of 1999 at the Orestiades de Gibellina, a major theatre festival in Sicily that takes place each year. The festival is overlooked by a stifling white concrete shroud cast by painter-sculptor Alberto Burri in 1985 that runs along the gaping remains of the foundations and streets of old Gibellina which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1968.

This time, Spiro Scimone chose to write in Italian. “I felt the need to experience the musicality of another language. Sicilian sounds profound, serious, closed, percussive and metallic. Italian is less jerky but allows for the same kind of rhythm.” Francesco continues, “Nunzio, Bar and La Festa aren’t a trilogy. It’s important never to stop moving in theatre, because you can never claim that you’ve arrived. We forge ahead. It’s a journey, a long journey, interspersed with sorrows, sometimes with allegria, and carried forward by a great love – our need for it.”

La Festa is a new text, this time written for three voices: la Madre, il Padre and Gianni, their only son. In places, this text is enfolded by the music of Patrizio Trampetti, one of the founders of the Nuova Compagnia di canto popolare and writer of the first songs by the famous Neapolitan, Edoardo Bennato. But only two-way conversations are allowed, as the characters of the father and son are too alike and cannot bear to share the same space. The first element worked on in the play was its musicality. “Words are notes to me, and their ensemble forms a sound that has to be harmonious and pleasant to listen to”, explains Spiro. “It’s the musicality in it that induces the right atmosphere in the performance. I like using repetition to create obsessive moods. Even if the words are very realistic, constructing them in a repetitive, short and fantastical way snatches them away from naturalist everyday life and pulls them towards a paradoxical and often ironic dimension. Once written, my text is still incomplete because it’s waiting for the actor.”

“When rehearsals began, we started with nothing”, continues Francesco. “The stage designer and director were there, close by. Little by little, we explored the exact words of the text with our bodies and voices. Then we slowly cast everything aside to reveal its essence. We wanted to pare down the text, with actors who really look at each other and who really listen to each other. That’s how something happens.” Spiro continues, “This time, we worked with Sergio Tramonti, Carlo Cecchi’s stage designer, because he has the same notion of theatre in his head as we do. In the text, La Festa was set in a little working class kitchen, but during rehearsals, it became a space of plainness in which everything could surge around. If you give a child a cardboard box, it becomes a fortified castle, a small boat or a cave.” Made from panels of indistinct beige, the set forms the point of a triangle with the floor widening out towards the audience. Motionless, the actors hold back the pressure, forced to the back of this triangular shape into a dead-end. Relief comes in the form of the syncopation of phrases and in the attacks, flights, falls, pizzicatos and silences.

Spiro adds, “Some moments in it are hilarious, even if fundamentally they are very blunt. It’s not a play about a Sicilian family’s suffocating failings. Obviously, when it comes down to it, we are still inspired by what we know best. But above all, Francesco and I need to dig out everything about relationships between people. Out of these relationships comes conflict, and out of conflict comes theatre. The situation carries a much more universal dimension. It is a space of irrational ritual about the difficulty of putting up with each other.”

Laconic dialogues that are impossible to describe heighten the feelings of claustrophobia. They feature ultra short sentences poisoned out of habit, where sweet words become bitter and trivialities are stubbornly clung to. They all know everything about the others and make it their duty to have a go at them. Bad faith reigns alongside alienating watchfulness. The two polarised men conscientiously avoid each other, the father reduced in stature by the spoilt son who brings home more money than him. They have such incorrigible and distressing reflex reactions that we no longer know whether we should laugh or be deeply shocked. One thing is sure – the two of them do not know how to listen to each other any more and dig in their heels to the point of absurdity in order to have the last word. Always quibbling – it is stronger than they are – they are incapable of talking to each other. On the day of the couple’s thirtieth wedding anniversary, it’s time for La Festa!

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