Kronoteatro, "Orfani"

Orfani_la nostra casa

The first of the three dates on the bill with the male-only Albenga company directed by Maurizio Sguotti digs effectively in the theme of paternal authoritarianism. However, it shows a gap between the older director and the younger performers – A review by Renato Palazzi

The Kronoteatro group from Albenga is a unique male-only company, born practically in the classroom, thanks to the encounter – apparently very strong – between a drama teacher and some of his young pupils. At the end of their studies, the one and the others decided to work together on this generation gap, a difference that is not only in age but on the role of cultural education, experience of life.

I’m emphasizing these aspects because their centrality is strongly gathered in the pièce: it captures in its thematic choices – the authoritarianism of the father figure, the mechanisms of power in family ties – which probably reflect internal dynamics of the group, captured in the stratifications of the show. The name of the group, which presumably refers to Kronos, father of Zeus, who castrated the parent and devoured his sons, seems to refer to ancient mythologies on a psychoanalytic background.

This clot of unconscious fantasies, sort of mythical synthesis of intense rituals values, is immediately and unequivocally perceived in Orfani_la nostra casa, the first show produced by Kronoteatro in 2008, which now opens the small “retrospective” – a trilogy based on the family – at Milan Teatro dell’Elfo. You feel it physically and even olfactory from that enclosure of soil where the action takes place, a rectangular space, large more or less as a bowling green, with the audience arranged along the two longer sides.

That sort of arena or primordial wilderness is a restless mental landscape, where the actors celebrate ancestral fights for the mutual oppression and fierce regressions that show almost the origin of the hierarchies of the same family and sexual identities. It is a “belly pregnant of sharp metal / damp cave that houses our plasma and our imperfect bodies / thesis to the jump that simulates the flight”, as stated in the text. The drama, written by Fiammetta Carena, take its starts from an Homer quote, said at the beginning by the man who is the master and the dominus of that place.

He is the Master, the ambiguous father and despot seated on a throne, dressed in black, who welcomes five young dark refugees, there rushed from nowhere, survivors of an unknown diaspora, victims of unspecified horrors, without self-awareness, without memories of the past. He makes them dive, undressed, in that ancestral matter, instructs them with pieces of a menacing book of wisdom that, in angry biblic tones, states the only possible salvation in the truths revealed in its pages, while outside only the realm of darkness and evil exists.

The Master observes, without intervention, the five bodies rolling into the ground, assaulting, tormenting each other, clinging to ambiguous promiscuity, fighting and dancing together. There’s a boy feeding a doll, another that snatches it from his hands and place it in his underpants, simulating a huge member. One of them would like to think for himself, and for this he is killed. Off-screen, the voice of an old woman tells a story about the end of the reign of mothers and on the advent of patriarchy. The boys at the height of their subjection, are presented to the Master rudimentary wearing uniforms, uttering war cries.

The plot, a bit enigmatic – not so much in its individual developments, as in the overall sense it conveys to a contemporary public – is translated into a score made of primarily theatrical gestures, tense, sometimes almost unpleasant, a language even made by the nakedness of good actors and splashes of water, land, rice, sometimes occasionally investing the audience, seat in an awkward proximity, a few centimetres away. It is a descent into the psyche that must be lived like that, subjectively, for the kind of emotions that can give or not give, but certainly never foregone or trivial.

Formally the show – directed by Maurizio Sguotti, the “Master” on the stage and in life – is accurate, carefully studied. Nothing seems out of place or time. Nothing happens by chance. But if we consider separately each of its components (the soil, the old woman’s voice, the suitcases lit from within, some questions then arise: something not dated, but already lodged in our collective memory is felt.

Maybe it’s why Orfani is now five years old, a long time for any scenic creation. But the problem lies elsewhere, in my view: is a kind of intimate, subtle discrepancy between a group driven by rising energy, still at the bottom of the dawn, and the imagination of a director who, by birth, has other models, other sources of inspiration, indeed pretty recognizable. You can do all. But the traces of its theatrical imprinting, like fingerprints, can neither be deleted nor modified.

Seen at Teatro Elfo Puccini in Milan, January 2014. Picture by Alba Crapanzano

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Orfani_la nostra casa (Orphans_our home)
dramaturgy: Fiammetta Carena
director: Maurizio Sguotti
Set and costumes: Francesca Marsella
light design and music: Enzo Monteverde
with: Alessandro Bacher, Tommaso Bianco, Alberto Costa, Vittorio Gerosa, Alex Nesti, Maurizio Sguotti
production Kronoteatro