Premiere: HNK Croatian National Theatre, Zagabria, 11/12/2015
About this event
“Christ is the only anarchist who has really succeeded,” wrote André Malraux.
Some days before passing away, my mother – a devout Catholic woman – told me: “Pippo, please do something on the Gospel. So that you can spread a message of love. We need it so much in these harsh times.” At once I thought back to the plays I used to take part in at the parish church, when I was a child, in the role of the Infant Jesus with blond curls. I was in love – just as she used to be – with that world of priests, churches, incense and theatre performances.
My thoughts then jumped to the role of God I played, as an adult, in a Peter Greenaway film. But I was also in the role of the Devil in the same film, as well as that of Lot, who made love to his daughters and cursed God and the Devil.
One of Greenaway’s characters said: “It’s not God who created man, but man who created God.” My mind then went to all the conquests, massacres, wars, lies and fake morality undertaken in the name of God.
And I also reflected on the beauty, art and poetry that the idea of holiness has brought to our world in the last two thousand years.
And Karl Marx’s statement: “Religion is the sigh of the soul in a soulless world.”
Thus I started to film and photograph the images I came across during my travels through Italy, France, Romania, Russia and Latin America. Portraits of the Virgin Mary, of Christ, of martyrs. I found things related to the topic everywhere. I saw Christ with a painful, serious expression everywhere. Seldom did I see happiness on his many faces. I felt as if I were in prison. I experienced a sense of deep rejection for all that dark, heavy, suffering iconography connected to the Gospels.
And so I lost myself – as always happens when I create a new play – in forgetting those Gospels, or maybe in keeping only the name.
And I ended up meeting new people from Africa and the Middle East, who had come by sea, crossing oceans, deserts, boundaries, prisons and walls. I met gypsies living in the most run-down places. And I started spending time with those refugees, getting to know them, sharing my life with them. They came to stay in my house, and I went to stay at their refugee camps. We shared stories, food and time.
Then I also began to search out landscapes, seas, sunsets and skies that spoke to me of miracles, of light. “Those kicks toward the sky,” wrote Pasolini while watching some children playing football, “could teach us to cast our wishes as far as possible, so that the joy of the game can accompany us until death.”
Then I found myself looking at a crucifix hanging on a white wall for ten days; I was stuck in a hospital bed due to an eye problem. I was seeing double and I strained to focus on that image in front of me. I wandered along the hospital corridors trying to speak out – once again with my camera – about my terrible and crippling double vision.
About how I see these times of ours as double, terrible and crippling, about how you cannot recognise truth from the fake, real from the unreal, where the exasperation of the modern era has made us forget something holy and ancient.
And in the end those images have lingered within me: those voices, those sounds, those echoes, those silences that I heard in the gypsy camps, in the refugee camps and in those hospital corridors; but also that life force and that inexplicable joy you can find in places devoted to sorrow.
Pippo Delbono has been experimenting on stage for many years now, exploring the fertile ground between public and personal, between autobiography and history, shaping works that stand out on the international scene for their originality. Vangelo (Gospel) marks a further step along this path.
In recent years, his experimentation has developed into an unusual form of musical performance: an investigation into voice and words which has taken Delbono to meet musicians such as Enzo Avitabile, Alexander Balanescu, Petra Magoni, Antoine Bataille and Piero Corso. Together with these artists, he has created performances and concerts that tour in parallel to the Delbono group’s repertory productions.
His research delves into creation of a new personal language in cinema, and the commitment already revealed in his films (Amore Carne, Sangue, La Visite, Vangelo) can also be found in his more recent productions, Dopo la Battaglia, Orchidee and Vangelo, which are strongly influenced by this musical and cinematographic exploration.
Vangelo is a choral work, which began as a contemporary opera: it first took shape in Zagreb, performed by the orchestra, choir, dancers and actors at the Croatian National Theatre together with the acting company that has been working with Pippo Delbono for many years.
Vangelo takes its cue from the atmospheres of Enzo Avitabile’s music. It is rich in poetic overtones but also markedly reveals the memories of its Croatian performers who lived through the traumatic events of a cruel war that has reshaped the history, places and boundaries of their native land. Boundaries that even during the creation of Vangelo were shaken by the arrival of ten thousand men, women and children desperately seeking a Promised Land.
More than a theatre group, Pippo Delbono’s company is a wandering community that has been creating a new language for the stage and for life, or rather, for that inextricable knot between art and life that only a few have the courage to tackle. This group of artists, which includes Delbono himself, is made up of people who first and foremost share a similar nature, in continuous precariousness where loneliness and isolation are prominent, and who have gravitated towards the theatre for its great scope for sharing.
Pippo Delbono’s theatre life, which is both aware and unpredictable, draws vital energy from the experiences he has tasted with Odin Teatret and Pina Bausch, and from studying oriental disciplines. Yet his true edge comes from avoiding rules and methods in order to instil a new level of honesty − that of feeling. A way of feeling governed by introducing distance, so that his theatre pieces emerge from stumblings, from feverish interpretations, from dreams. And they feed on mutual listening, improvisation, exploration of personal experience. This is the weft into which Delbono inserts – either dagger-like or as if they were delicate flowers – texts that are often well-known, thus generating new origins.
Words reveal themselves like chasms through dance, they echo in silence, in a mute gesture. Instead, the dance measures space and sparks the rhythm that permeates it. Emptiness then concludes the text’s boldness, its courage.
This is how physical dramaturgies take shape, where ‘bodies without lies’ write and where the codes of dance and theatre intertwine without losing fluidity. A fundamental role is played by music, whose absorbing grip transports onlookers away from their reality, to a disarmed state. Similar theatre precedents do not exist, and copying is not feasible. Delbono’s act of creativity is unique, effected through ‘reverse’ movement: he takes life, its fullness and its redundancy; he undresses life, throws it into disarray and plumbs it until he finds the crux of beauty hidden within its darkest parts. And then he looks at this, fearlessly.
And it is always an act of resisting death.
technical manager Fabio Sajiz, lighting/video Orlando Bolognesi, sound Matteo Ciardi/Pietro Tirella, chief stage technician Gianluca Bolla, stage technician Fabrizio Orlandi/Enrico Zucchelli, wardrobe Elena Giampaoli, management Silvia Cassanelli, Alessandra Vinanti, tour manager Raffaella Ciuffreda, set and costume workshops Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište- Zagabria (Croatia)
photos Luca Del Pia
special thanks Fabrice Aragno, Antoine Bataille, Francesca Catricalà, Teatro Nuovo di Mirandola
production Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione and Croatian National Theatre – Zagabria
co-production Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens – Centre de Création et de Production, Théâtre de Liège
COMPAGNIA PIPPO DELBONO