The new theatre company from Cambridge – Ars in Fieri – presents: Looking for Pasolini at the Courtyard Theatre. This new play, written by Atticus Osborn and Ludovico Nolfi, who also directs it, aims to divulge and celebrate the work of the Italian writer, poet and film director Pasolini.
The plot of this play entails a group of young performers who get together to put on a play about Pasolini, quite like what is actually happening in real life with these actors. The characters are all in love with Pasolini’s work except for the renowned actor they invite to take part – Peter – who only chooses to do it to help his girlfriend and then inherently causes some problems during rehearsals. In the end, after rehearsals of endless declamations of poetry in Italian and English, stripped of drama, the funding for their play is cut and frustratingly they never fulfil their goal of sharing it with an audience.
This attempt to share Pasolini’s poetry through a play reminds me of the musical “We Will Rock You” where they want to sing Queen’s music, and to do so, instead of calling it a concert, a terrible plot is invented to pretend that it fits into the realm of theatre and storytelling. One must be clear of one’s objectives: if it is to show someone else’s work, be it music or poetry or film clips, the focus must be solely that. The story in the play must not be used as a means to enhance something else external to it: to hear and understand the story is the reason why we go to the theatre. Shakespeare’s poetry works because it is full of drama and conflict, unlike what is presented from Pasolini, which is static, and not material for a play. The characters in this poorly developed plot are not tri-dimensional and we know very little of whom they are and why they act as they do. The more developed character is the antagonist Peter, played by Samuel Mattioli, who is distinctly different from the rest of them, in background and attitude, therefore causing the little conflict there is.
I would say if you wish to share the wonders of the spoken word with the rest of the world, have actors speak them out loud, as it is the intent of this performance. However, an actor must treat the poem as a monologue, it must see the images in it and make them clear to others through the sound of his voice. One must not speak lyrical writing in one tone only, as if it is all beautiful or sad – the feelings mostly conveyed in the voices of Dea Rakovac and Sochel Rogers respectively. Pasolini’s words seem to be impregnated with the most wonderful and diverse feelings, offering a range of variety that is not grasped upon by the majority of the performers. James Labdarbs plays Tim, the actor fresh out of drama school, committed and professional, and he has some good moments. As he plays Pasolini though I feel his performance could be much more developed and captivating.
Even though I don’t speak Italian, there are many moments I understand better in terms of the Italian version of the poetry rather than the English one. Not only is the original in Italian but it is clear that it resonates much more with the Italian performers as it is their mother tongue. It is more meaningful even though I can’t grasp all its meaning.
Overall there is a lot of room for development in this play and I hope the director and writer keep Looking for Pasolini, looking for the right way to bring him to life through art, as he deserves to be heard and seen. 3/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
Looking for Pasolini was shown at the Courtyard Theatre from Thursday 22nd until Saturday 24th October. For more information on Ars in Fieri, visit here…