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by > spiro scimone
with > francesco sframeli > spiro scimone > gianluca cesale > salvatore arena
direction > francesco sframeli
set designer and costumist > barbara bessi
light designer > beatrice ficalbi
assistant director > roberto bonaventura
assistant set and costumes > laurianne scimemi
photo credits > marco caselli nirmal
technical director > santo pinizzotto
administration > giovanni scimone
production > compagnia scimone sframeli > teatro di messina
in collaboration with > asti teatro 28

“La Busta” (The envelope) marks a turning point in the theatre of Scimone and Sframeli, both on a thematic and a structural front. The stark room which represents their theatre is filled for the first time with violence, a violence all the more disturbing because it is blind and unmotivated. This time the thread of action is created by the strength of the relationship which forms between the four characters, who remain nameless and deprived of any definite role. In the semi bare space, “A Man” enters with a huge envelope under his arm. He has been summoned by the President and he wants to know why, but the Assistant refuses to give him satisfaction, diverting the conversation onto other matters totally lacking in sense. The dialogue verges on the absurd and grotesque, due to the repetition of the lines and the use of long pauses and silences. The work is a bitter criticism of the stubborn obscurity of every system which undermines our sense of dignity and annuls our ability to reason. It is the metaphor of a cannibalistic society and the unreasonableness of a governing power, which gains its strength from the ingenuity of those subject to it.

There’s been a lot of talk of Pinter, which then moved on to talk of Beckett, but perhaps before finally arriving at the conclusion that Spiro Scimone is just Spiro Scimone, or at a push Scimone and Sframeli, undoubtedly Kafka should be added to the equation, and not only for his obvious role as forerunner to the two previously mentioned Nobel prize winners. “The Castle” is in fact strongly present at the beginning of The Envelope, a dramatic piece which begins with a character significantly referred to as “a man” entering a room containing just an empty chair, a cupboard and a few steps leading up a long stairway, asking to speak to The Chairman and addressing himself to a Secretary who is busy looking at his own reflection in the mirror, putting his glasses on to assert his authority. Why does this man wish to speak to the authorities? Because apparently he’s received “an envelope” requesting his presence, but without realising that the implicit in his receipt of this envelope is a possible accusation, and it therefore lays him open to suspicion in the current context. The aforementioned man throws himself head first right from the beginning into his role as the “accused” and therefore guilty man, tolerating, albeit impatiently, the ritual of repetitive questions to which he is submitted, with the objective of doubting his good faith in attributing to himself not only a name, but also the very face which figures on the identity document constituting the proof of his existence: a face which will have to be minutely checked in the mirror, while it starts to be insinuated that this visual recognition could be invalidated by an eventual twin identity and the suspect is tormented by the temptation to exchange his face with that of a “tough guy”. After all this is a place where there are no Kafkian style female intermediaries and all characters are nameless and referred to only by their professional role – along with the Secretary there emerges the figure of the Cook, who appears to be wise to the ways of the world – or defined by their faces: there is talk of a man on the loose with a “suspicious looking face” who should be beaten up and put out of action immediately to “prevent him from committing a crime”. There is also talk of a mysterious Mister X who lives in a cupboard and eats out of a dogs bowl claiming to have once been a dancer, while a fervent search seems to be going on for a “real man” and there are the intermittent screeches of an alarm clock to mark the beginning and end of phantom “democracy lessons”, which fit perfectly into the context of a Secretary who proudly brandishes his truncheon, declares enthusiastically that he loves it and even sleeps with it, and wherever possible, doesn’t fail to insert it into the posteriors of suspects. This leads us into the last part of the play, written entirely in Italian, where for the first time in the work of Scimone violence is expressed openly – a violence previously merely hinted at in “Nunzio”, which remained behind the scenes in “Bar” and “La Festa”, and was only implicit as forerunner to the desolation of “The Courtyard”. It’s enough to recognise the figure of the Chairman to transform this unreal world, in any case tending towards paradox and up to this point scattered with gags, into a context drenched in horror and to be looked upon in disgust: the passer by that’s found guilty of a murder never committed, incriminated without evidence, beaten up and knocked around with the head with a truncheon, forced into making a false confession, finally killed, his body then hung from a hook and actually eaten by the horrific exponents of the authorities, accompanied by shots of whisky and group photos. What is really striking is the grinning and decadent image of power which unfortunately goes beyond fantasy to become a caricatured representation of dictatorship deeply rooted in the images of certain inflated leaders on the world stage, all hidden behind a greasy smile that we could easily liken to many well-known faces.

Franco Quadri