Rome January 4th 1963
"There is no changing a stereotype once it has become a journalistic anecdote. That pissing episode will cling to me for as long as I live." The Teatro Laboratorio, Carmelo Bene's first home as a comedian "more of a mess than a home [...] A single step, five metres of proscenium", was located in a former carpentry workshop inside a courtyard in Via Roma Libera number 23". Pinocchio after Collodi, the Spettacolo-Concerto Majakovskij and Amleto were some of the productions that Bene staged at the Teatro Laboratorio from 1962 to January 1963, when at the end of the happening dedicated to James Joyce, Cristo 63, the theatre was definitively closed. "Some came to giggle at this particular brand of poverty combined with the overacting of unskilled actors". Pasolini, Moravia, Elsa Morante, Sandro Penna, Flaiano, were among the intellectuals who attracted a "public that was very snobbish, very rich and very silly", and which was ill-treated in various ways by Bene and the other actors in the company. Some, such as Manlio Nevastri and the younger members like Alfiero Vincenti and Luigi Mezzanotte, had been drafted in from the none too highly esteemed Compagnia D'Origlia Palmi, the last bastion of a repertory theatre consumed and graced by aphasia and lack of players, besides being the involuntary origin of those "contested areas of the traditional dramaturgical language" brought into play by Bene in those years. Based on "some fine passages of Ulysses by James Joyce", other "somewhat scurrilous sections from works by the French novelist Genet" and left partly to the free improvisation of the actors, Cristo 63 was heralded by the "Arte-Vivo" slogan coined by Argentinean painter-performer-situationist Alberto Greco, a factor that would have tipped the performance dangerously beyond the confines of a normal theatrical representation. On stage with Bene in the part of Gesù (Jesus), "shirtless, in black trousers and tails rented for the occasion", Greco played Giovanni l'apostolo in "Tintoretto blue-green". Unused to drinking Greco pulled up his tunic and began urinating in the face of the Argentinean ambassador, his mink-clad wife and the cultural attaché declaring: "Viva Arte-Vivo! Abbasso Argentina!". Not satisfied, he then "drew on fresh and slanderous inspiration from the cakes used on stage for the Last Supper" and "in a creative burst began hurling fistfuls of cream together with dollops of dripping pastry over his three compatriots, who remained glued to their seats in stupefied, incredulous and dignified impassivity". Self-crucified on the floor and "prey to his final gasps before dying", Bene whispered a desperate call for order to his fellow actors: "stick to the script". Carmelo Bene was charged with indecent exposure, libel and offensive behaviour, while Greco was obliged to leave the country. From Spain, where he committed suicide in 1965, he gave his version of the episode in a piece published on the Gran Manifiesto Antimanifesto Rollo Vivo-Dito. Both were in due course acquitted. The shots taken by Abate, which the police confiscated during the happening, contributed towards Bene's defence in court: "Blessed photographs! Thanks to them I was acquitted for never having committed the crime."
Cristo 63. Carmelo Bene, Giuseppe Lenti, Alberto Greco present an Arte Vivo show. Tribute to James Joyce.
Salomè, da e di Oscar Wilde
Rome from March 2nd to 10th 1964
"Delivered out of carefree suffering", according to Carmelo Bene, Salomè "breaks onto the provincial Rome scene and into the petty Italian small-mindedness with a vengeance". The sets, costumes and make-up photographed by Claudio Abate are mildly influenced by the symbolist aestheticism of Gustave Moreau's Salomè, as described in Chapter Five of À Rebours by Huysmans, as well as by the illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley to the first English edition of the text by Wilde. Scattered bottles of whisky and "Art Nouvevau rags", along with a "radiophone-bar-tabernacle" transformed into a "Huysmansesque altar", proclaim an already exhausted scene through which the guests of a "chamber drama" move smoking and drinking in an outward display of indolence, "amidst a vicious air heavy with scent", "in a desperate attempt to escape day-to-day boredom through the artifice of costume". These include Herod Antipas (Carmelo Bene, wearing a "little crown of roses around his head"), Herodias (Alfiero Vincenti en-travesti) with a young woman in her arms, Cappadocia (Edoardo Florio) with "an odd, bishop-like mitre", Narraboth (Michele Francis) dressed like "a priest from a defunct religion"), and the "goddess of immortal hysteria", Salomè, played by Rosabianca Scerrino. "A precociously aged little girl", Salomè wanders across the stage "in a kind of teddy-livery", capriciously demanding the head of the Baptist (Franco Citti), a suburban prophet, "an illiterate wretch" who no one can understand (once he emerges from the champagne well he will do nothing but repeat that he has nothing to do with what is happening on stage - "get me a bicycle... who had the idea of getting me on stage?"). The cast was made up of "actors without inhibitions... and restricted": in addition to Citti, on stage there was another one of Pasolini's actors, Alfredo Leggi, who had to obtain special leave from jail and who sang in a top hat "if you want to stay out of trouble, avoid the women". After the happening the Wilde tragedy began, transformed by Bene into the private drama of Erode who, after relinquishing the prophet's head just so that he can "invent fear", silences Salomè with a "curious fountain pen-revolver", as noted by the ever-attentive Ennio Flaiano. This critical incursion by Bene into the Oscar Wilde play was followed by a second version for the stage (1967), a filmed variation in 1972 and a radio adaptation in 1975.
Salomè from and by Oscar Wilde. Directed by Carmelo Bene and Giuseppe Lenti. Sets by Salvatore Vendittelli. With Carmelo Bene (Herod), Franco Citti (Iokanaan), Rosabianca Scerrino (Salomè), Michele Francis (Narraboth), Alfiero Vincenti (Herodias), Edoardo Florio (Cappadocia), Alfredo Leggi.
Teatro Centrale, Rome from March 17th to May 2nd 1966
"Not even Pasolini noticed that the text contained a revolutionary linguistic adventure in its loss of syntax. Certain passages appear to precede Joyce." Pinocchio is first and foremost a revolutionary text for the Italian language, which is intrinsically charged with a theatricality that imbues each single word. "Collodi has achieved loss of syntax in certain errors, with la quale (she who) or cui (whom) scattered in slapdash fashion [...]. In reality there is an overall musicality made up of subtractions, complete aphasia. Circular breathing, for example... breathing only within words and not between one word and the other... The tonic and a withheld dominant... Never just one caesura." In order to underline the Copernican revolution that Collodi developed in the theme of his work - seemingly the story of an unruly puppet that toils his way through pitfalls, punishments and repentance towards the glory of incarnation as a 'real' boy - Bene resorted to certain excerpts from Cuore by Edmondo De Amicis. Emblematic of "a particular reality within the fledgling Italian state under the Savoys", De Amicis' little heroes personify the flesh and blood reverse of Collodi's revolutionary puppet: "At least two thirds of the six hundred thousand men who died in the trenches in the Alps during the First World War had a copy of Cuore in their backpack. I am positive that had they had Collodi instead, at least half would have come back alive". Against the youth who is robbed of his childhood and sacrifices his life for an ideal, Bene juxtaposes a youth/puppet that asserts his carefree condition against the false values proffered by adulthood. If one excludes the drawn out monologues in which Pinocchio tells his version of reality, the part has a musicality that transcends what he is saying and reveals his desire to become a boy in order to preserve the fictitiousness of the tale from the threats posed by convention, upheld by all those characters that preach good sense: Geppetto, the Grillo parlante (the Talking Cricket), the Pappagallo (Parrot, the beautiful blue-haired girl who will reappear as the Fata (the Fairy) to complicate his life - mother-woman-lover. In Bene's version the consciously educational message of the original tale is destined to emerge in the artificial construction of a boy in flesh and blood who is obliged to relinquish his masks and the poetry of his fantasies. A no less tragic modulation to adulthood than the fate meted out to the "poor good lad" shot by the Austrians as he defended his country, whose pale corpse wrapped in the flag is echoed in the final scene of Carmelo Bene's Pinocchio, when the death of childhood is heralded by a fanfare of flags and tricolour spotlights directed at the public. Together with Amleto, Pinocchio is the essence of the theatre of Carmelo Bene, reappearing several times in his productions for the stage, radio and television from 1962 to 1998.
Pinocchio '66. After Carlo Collodi. Adapted and directed by Carmelo Bene. Masks by Salvatore Vendittelli. Carmelo Bene (Pinocchio), Lydia Mancinelli (the Fox, the Lovely Fairy with azure Hair), Edoardo Florio (Mastro Geppetto, the Talking Cricket, the Fire Eater, the Innkeeper, the Snail, the Parrot), Piero Vida (the Clown, Mastro Cherry, the Cat, the Little Man, the Manager, the Buyer), Luigi Mezzanotte (Lamp-Wick), Valeria Nardone (A Boy, the Owl), Manlio Nevastri.
Faust o Margherita
Rome from January 3rd to January 30th 1966
Conceived during an all-night session that included an undisclosed number of Manhattan cocktails, and written in collaboration with Franco Cuomo, this show is inspired by comic strips". Mephistopheles (Mario Tempesta), "a loser dogged by ill-fortune", is The Phantom, "a clerk with a performing arts employment booklet in his holster instead of a revolver". As Cuomo reminds us, "Faust has already lost his soul and wants it back. But being a loser [...] he really hasn't much to offer except for the love of the woman who is keeping him, a very beautiful but foolish Margherita". Margherita (Lydia Mancinelli) runs a wedding gown boutique that employs a number of models, including a young Manuela Kustermann, not easily distinguishable from the shop's wooden mannequins, one of which Faust is desperately in love with. Faust finally succeeds in causing Margherita to fall out of love with him by confessing that he never took a degree and therefore has no right to his title of dottore (in Italy owed to whoever has a university degree). Margherita agrees to marry the poor clerk (Mephistopheles / The Phantom) and Bene uses the citation "Se lo sposo se la sposa", a flash quotation from Manzoni's The Betrothed recognised only by a few. This practice of including non-evident quotations, erudite collages rarely traceable back to their origins, would remain a constant feature in the work of Bene. In the final scene, Faust, "his freedom more than he can bear", points an unloaded pistol to his temple while Mefistofele listens to imaginary Sunday football results read out by Bene himself over music from Act V of Charles Gounod's Faust. "The fumes and the flames [...] the duels and the duets, the B flats and bellowed Cs, the virgins and the prostitutes", the piece's music and noise editing, considered by Corrado Augias sufficient material in itself for "a radiodrama of a certain level", saved the piece from critical dismissal as an adolescent and provocative farce. This said, Faust o Margherita stands as Bene's first critical experiment in the Wagnerian notion of "total work of art", with the mise-en-scène bringing into play a conflict between the arts (instead of harmonizing them), so as to see what happens when Gounod's Faust is used to underscore football results or - as he did many years later in the operetta Hommelette for Hamlet - when a Verdi aria short-circuits with Hamlet's inner travails.
Faust o Margherita. Two acts by Carmelo Bene and Franco Cuomo. Directed by Carmelo Bene. Sets by Salvatore Vendittelli, costumes by Carmelo Bene, stage manager Elia Jezzi. Starring Carmelo Bene (Faust), Lydia Mancinelli (Margherita), Mario Tempesta (Mephistopheles / The Phantom), Piero Vida (Wagner) and in alphabetical order: Anna Angelucci, Manuela Kustermann, Valeria Nardone, Rosaria Vadacca.
Il Rosa e il Nero da di a M. G. Lewis (versione teatrale n. 1 da "Il Monaco")
Rome from October 7th to 31st 1966
This show, "grafted from the better known and genial English Gothic tale" The Monk, by M. G. Lewis (1796), which enjoyed a return to popularity under surrealists André Breton and Antonin Artaud, was tepidly received by critics of the time as a pastiche of "disguises, magical rituals, incest, matricide, trials, nocturnal encounters, ghostly apparitions". As the curtain rose there was an introductory "orgy of musical effects, by and large electronically generated". In essence the show represented "the point of arrival towards which Bene has been striving over the past years: to conceive a show totally unrelated to everyday reality". Il Rosa e il Nero is a "baroque orgy of the senses". Through an "experimentation with sound and noise [...] magnificently used as material for an on-stage script ", as Giuseppe Bartolucci noted, and thanks to Vittorio Gelmetti's electronic revision of the score, Paul Ketoff's synket and to the vocal score composed by Sylvano Bussotti for Maria Monti, the spoken word becomes sound, noise, song. In this work the "acting itself is transformed into a non-logical, semiotic element" through a series of non "predetermined" customs brought into play every time "a particular situation (or person)" interferes "in a general situation or the conscience of the show", while the lighting is transformed into gaze, "as if each scene were being spied upon by someone". The central character is the monk Ambrosio (Bene), for whom it is impossible to destroy an effigy of the Virgin with which he has fallen madly in love and for which the sitter "was Satan in person". All he will be able to do is tear down from the wall "the useless ornament of a painting" - its frame. His own saintly vanity, "the universal frame for all pictures (theatrically speaking)" will become his story and his undoing.
Il Rosa e il Nero from and by M. G. Lewis (version for the stage no. 1 from The Monk). Directed by Carmelo Bene, costumes by Carmelo Bene, sets by Salvatore Vendittelli. Music: soundtrack by Carmelo Bene, scores for Maria Monti and articulation from Il Circo by Aldo Braibanti, by Sylvano Bussotti, electronic collaboration on the soundtrack Vittorio Gelmetti, synket by Paul Ketoff, sound by Elia Jezzi, technical supervision by Remo D'Angelo. The songs "Il re dell'acqua", "Ninna nanna", "Serenata spagnola" are by Silvano Spadaccino. The situations: Carmelo Bene (Ambrosio), Maria Monti (Agnese), Lydia Mancinelli (Matilda), Silvano Spadaccino (Don Lorenzo De Medina), Ornella Ferrari (Antonia), Max Spaccialbelli (Don Raymond De Las Cisternas), Rossana Rovere (Elvira, mother of Antonia and Sant'Agata), Rita Klein.
Nostra Signora dei Turchi
Teatro Beat 72, from December 1st 1966 to January 16th 1967
Teatro delle Arti, from October 10th to November 4th 1973
Initially written in 1964 in novel form, Nostra Signora dei Turchi received two adaptations for the stage and one into film, which won the jury prize at the 1968 Venice Film Festival. The first adaptation for the stage dates from 1966 and opened the season in one of Rome's historic underground theatre spaces, Beat 72, while the 1972 adaptation marked Bene's return to the stage after five years of working in film. "Never forget", states Lydia Mancinelli, "that Carmelo Bene always has a central concept in every one of his shows. In Nostra Signora dei Turchi the central theme is that of the fourth wall, in glass, that closes in the stage and through which the public spies the performers". In Nostra Signora dei Turchi the public 'spied' on fragments of an imaginary autobiographical account that the reviewers of the time - thrown by the impossibility of discerning some kind of plot - defined as being "not deprived of fierce self-irony", between rebelliousness and neurosis, steeped in sex, religion and the macabre. A "vision of southern Italy, with its saints (a kind of home-brewed baroque)", Nostra Signora was generally interpreted as a "parable of a reluctant vocation towards martyrdom" whose protagonist, "possibly" one of the early Christians of Otranto martyred by the Turks, "finds no rest in his grave, like a vampire", and "is torn between two Margheritas", "one carnal and placidly bourgeois and the other heroic and haloed (an all too human St Margherita that smokes, takes coffee, sleeps and wakes up again, grants and expects pardon)". From "earthly dimension to honed spirituality", Bene puts on and removes his makeup, gives himself and injection, courts a maid, doubles up as another self and is subjected to the advances of a sodomite monk, cooks spaghetti on stage and, finally, "at the culmination of an orgy of food and sex", dies, "shedding the armour worn for the occasion piece by piece". Aggeo Savoli reviewed the production in the style of a war correspondent: "peremptorily contradictory affirmations, movements driven by hidden agendas, sentences broken off or drowned entirely by noises, explosions, crashes". Nostra Signora is an authentically private fact in which the ego of the lead role "ends up fragmented all over the place", displaying a body that is always "sore, wounded, bandaged, downtrodden, bruised". Five years on, the second edition of Nostra Signora turned out to be controversial again on the question of the division between scene and public. Maurizio Grande deemed this to be symptomatic of "that identification crisis between spectator and dramatic material that stands as a mirror confronting the irrevocable condition of being just a spectator, and yet, together, of being the transparency of the stage reflected into the transparency of the viewer".
Nostra Signora dei Turchi. By Carmelo Bene. Directed by Carmelo Bene. Sets by Antonio Caputo. With Carmelo Bene, Lydia Mancinelli, Margherita Puratich, 1966.
Nostra Signora dei Turchi. By Carmelo Bene. Directed by Carmelo Bene. Sets by Gino Marotta. With Carmelo Bene, Lydia Mancinelli, Imelde Marani, Isabella Russo, Alfiero Vincenti, Bruno Baratti, Franco Lombardo, Gerardo Scala. Stage manager Mauro Contini, 1973.
Arden of Feversham
Teatro Carmelo Bene, Rome, from January 13th to 28th 1968
The Teatro Carmelo Bene, housed in a Roman cellar in Vicolo del Divino Amore, opened to the public with a 'revisitation' of a 1590 drama by an anonymous Elizabethan era playwright. The lead characters were the "very young and very beautiful" Alice (Lydia Mancinelli), her husband Arden (Giovanni Davoli), Alice's lover Mosbie (Franco Gulà), his friend Franklin (Manlio Nevastri) - "none of whom are aged under ninety" - and Alfiero Vincenti. The secondary roles were played by Giovanni Davoli's son Ninetto, the second Pasolini-reared actor after Franco Citti to debut on the stage, in the part of a killer and Susanna (Bernadette Kell), "model and reluctant lover" of the "most ingenious painter in Christendom ". The dominant theme of this "depressing, obsessive wasteland brimming with lust, petty infatuations, adultery and crime" is in fact the crisis of the painter Clarke (Carmelo Bene), "who scrapes together a living by producing paintings and crucifixes in lurid colours, destined to kill anyone who stares at them too closely", supported by off-stage quotations from La cuisine ornamentale of Elle by French semiologist Roland Barthes, from Le oscillazioni del gusto by Gillo Dorfles and The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. The excerpts analyse the meaning, utility, futility and function of art with respect to taste, fashion, society, and are quoted during the dinner at which Alice and Mosbie attempt to murder Arden by decorating the food with tubes of poisonous paint ("escape nature through a kind of crazed baroque [...] attempt to reconstruct it with freaky artifice"), during the scenes in which the painter is at work ("painters, who despite their supreme technical proficiency are of exceedingly dubious artistic value") and protracted to the point of overturning the order of stage elements that Clarke himself has created within the drama: "All art is utterly useless." The sets become impracticable - pure pictorial vision. The actors, who up until that moment were "so utterly fake within a real setting" find themselves "authentic", disoriented with "their old age, unfairly protracted", thrown out "of their daily environment", banished "within a worldless representation". As Bene himself declared, Arden gauges the impossibility of theatre and is "the last chance to explain its impossibility".
Arden of Feversham. Anonymous, Elizabethan era playwright. Adapted by Carmelo Bene and Salvatore Siniscalchi. Directed by Carmelo Bene. Cast: Giovanni Davoli (Arden), Manlio Nevastri (Franklin), Lydia Mancinelli (Alice), Franco Gulà (Mosbie), Carmelo Bene (Clarke), Ninetto Davoli (A Killer), Bernadette Kell (Susanna), Alfiero Vincenti.
Salvatore Giuliano. Vita di una rosa rossa
Teatro Beat 72, Rome, from April 11th to 18th 1967
In an interview released during the rehearsals, "his hair over his eyes and wearing a pair of pink trousers", Carmelo Bene asserts that 'this is the first time I put on a show without changing a single thing in the text. Risky... very risky indeed. I hope that when the spectators leave the theatre they will be so disoriented that they will only be able to ask themselves who this Giuliano really was'." The mise-en-scène of Nino Massari's script features three characters: Salvatore Giuliano (Luigi Mezzanotte), la Madre (the mother, Lydia Mancinelli) and la Sorella (the sister, Carla Tatò). Based on a wealth of "unpublished and shocking" material regarding the bandit Savatore Giuliano, which Nino Massari gathered over seven years of field research, the text "is a show and nothing more... but it is also a show that aims to shatter some of the legend that has been constructed around this 'hero' by the press". The action takes place "within a regurgitation of printed paper" and is, predictably, "submerged by the flotsam of useless and lasting news". The newspapers that fuelled the myth of the bandit cover the three walls of the Elizabethan-style wooden stage, generating a Giuliano "in an abstract key". "The original setting where the events unfolded, Sicily, is perceivable through a tangible sense of oppression - the climate of a country without history". The show is devised as a "quick succession of solos, duets and trios" and "not easily discernible" overlapping lines that develop both "the historical picture and the psychology of the bandit". Within this setting, ancestral Oedipal overtones in the relation between mother and son begin to take shape, "resolutely declined towards incest" and, as Aggeo Savoli observed, "gleaning from this posthumous analysis more than any follower of Freud or Jung could ever hope to extract from a lengthy series of sessions with a patient". Bene's presence, which is "heard but not seen", in a voiceover carried above the quick repartee of lines delivered by the characters directly involved in the plot, composes the epic of the story, which revolves around the Portella della Ginestra massacre. A story to which Bene, "after being accused on more than one occasion of anarchism, of being a leftist and much more", declared himself not entirely uninvolved.
Salvatore Giuliano. Vita di una rosa rossa. By Nino Massari. Directed by Carmelo Bene. With Luigi Mezzanotte (Salvatore Giuliano), Lydia Mancinelli (La Madre/the Mother), Carla Tatò (La Sorella/the Sister).
Salomè, feature film, 1972
The shots taken by Claudio Abate during the filming of Salomè convey the iconic weight of a film that, in the words of Cosetta G. Saba, "has no desire either to see or to be seen". Articulated in six thousand shots over little more than 70 minutes, the film subverts the very medium in which it exists. Between 1968 and 1973 the art of moving images became for Bene the best suited instrument for establishing the limit at which it was possible to show "the image of the image within itself". Both Oscar Wilde and Jules Laforgue sustain the dramaturgical construction of the film on a purely visual, textual plane. As if in a Gustave Moreau painting, amidst the flicker of candles and "an exaggeration of exotic plants", with "twenty-two million plastic roses [...] dipped one by one in fluorescent paint", on a floating set made up of pure colour-light, laden with refracting adhesive materials, Wilde's characters take form as already worn out "stand-ins". Each one perceives in the others the signs of a humiliating power that will spell his or her downfall. In order to survive, all the characters therefore resort to some kind of personal method for inventing that which they perceive. Salomè (Donyale Luna) - confronted with the real presence of Jokanaan (Giovanni Davoli), an illiterate builder dressed as a football player who is ignorant of his own prophecies - invents her own desire. Herodias instead personifies the "eternal female contradiction", doubled up as a "Bernini-style matronly angel with wings" played by Lydia Mancinelli and a transvestite played by Alfiero Vincenti, obsessively repeating the metaphorically charged phrase "la luna è la luna e basta" (the moon is like the moon, that is all). The young Narraboth (Piero Vida), Salomè's unrequited lover, commits suicide in an excess of onanism, while the executioner (Dakar) is condemned to perform the ferociously futile action of splitting a watermelon over and over again. Intent on planning his own downfall, Herod Antipas (Carmelo Bene) is destined to miss his own party. All mechanisms in a pointless machine, the characters are the victims of an accurately orchestrated set that is spied upon by a young man "around thirty [...] wrapped in a scarlet mantle", a Christ-Vampire (Franco Leo) who, on placing a naked young woman - "the negation of those terrestrial values refused and forbidden by religion" - at the feet of Erode, announces himself as the bearer of the end of myth and of "what is left of Christ". A presence that is subsequently counterbalanced by a vision of Christ the Man in the impossible act of crucifying himself. If one subtracts the implicit content of the drama, the beheading of the Baptist, the dance and the murder of Salomè, the film is reduced to little more than formal artifice, an exhaustion of the image that is then returned to the viewer on the notes of the second movement of the Brahms A German Requiem, finally graced from the concept-less representation.
Salomè (based on the play by Oscar Wilde). Written and directed by Carmelo Bene. Art director: Carmelo Bene, scenic designer: Gino Marotta, director of photography: Mario Masini (Super 16, blow-up to 35 mm), camera operator: Silvano Tessicini, editing Mauro Contini. With special appearance by Veruschka (Myrrhina) and Donyale Luna (Salomè). Cast: Lydia Mancinelli e Alfiero Vincenti (Herodias), Carmelo Bene (Herod Antipas/Onorio), Piero Vida (Narraboth), Franco Leo (Christ-Vampire), Giovanni Davoli (Iokanaan), Tom Galleés, Roberto Gnozzi, Marco Carelli, Dakar, Juan Fernandez, Ornella Ferrari, Luciana Cante. Assistant director: Monica Maurer and Michele Francis, production Manager: Paolo Mercuri. Visual effects obtained by 3M Scotchlite Reflective Materials. Filmed at Cinecittà Studios, Rome. Film synchronization Istituto Luce. Production: Carmelo Bene, Italy, color, 1972
Teatro Carmelo Bene, Rome, from October 26th 1968
A narrative show drawn from Cervantes, Don Chisciotte was created "in close collaboration with Leo De Berardinis, who I regard to be the only Italian gifted of theatrical ideas, especially because he is different from me [...] and therefore capable of collaboration". According to De Berardinis, the performance was held with no rehearsals, preceded only by a briefing on how to structure the movements on stage, the use of the microphone and the glass on the floor. "Irritating but not too much", the Cervantes text disappointed reviewers. Those same critics, who normally disapproved the "desecrating" excesses of Bene's shows, registered an acting style akin to the "old-fashioned Italian theatre", charged with a "cheeky drawl", punctuated by "ham inflections" and corroborated by a generalised "phonetic exasperation" from the other lead players. With the exception of the "educated diction of Lydia Mancinelli, present only marginally", the other actors "chewed, gnashed their teeth, salivated and gulped" their way through a "show-concert-narration" that, although faithful to the original text, reduces it to "pure verbal thrill", contaminating it here and there "with the odd swearword". In answer to the complete and utter crisis of the spectator and together with the generalised absence of critical analysis in the reviews published at the time, with respect to a show that can be considered a "theatrical essay", Bene himself crossed swords with some critics while Edoardo Fadini published a rigorous critical analysis on the magazine Sipario. With the three sides of the stage decorated with tin foil, De Berardinis (Sancio) and Bene (Don Chisciotte) are downstage. According to Fadini's interpretation, Bene uses stage elements that are "external to the plot" (treading on broken glass, breaking shafts over his knee, wearing bandages and rags) to convey "the bestial mumblings" of reason, while De Berardinis operates with detachment, manifesting his "masked folly" in a "cold reading" from the script. The lines delivered by Mancinelli and Perla Peragallo are on a lyrical plane, the first being caption-like and the second musically memorative, intoned to the jazz diction structure architected by De Berardinis. A particular technique was applied to the treatment of the "tale within a tale" of Don Quixote, developed on the basis of a Borges definition of "deliberate anachronism and erroneous attribution", by which a critical rewriting of a work imbues it with new and integral life, beyond its time, emancipating it from the historical and paternity confines in which it was conceived: "I rewrite especially because I feel the need to do it and I feel unmodern".
Don Chisciotte. From Cervantes. Adapted by Carmelo Bene and Leo De Berardinis. With Carmelo Bene, Lydia Mancinelli, Leo De Berardinis, Perla Peragallo, Clara Colosimo, Gustavo d'Arpe, Claudio Orsi.