Pasolini’s Calderón according to Fabio Condemi

It starts from those “flags that hang like rags”, red flags of struggle, the Calderón by Pier Paolo Pasolini. It is the end of the first speech of the speaker who opens the work; he will intervene to explain, to reflect, with hints of irony and sarcasm, two more times among the sixteen episodes, distributed in three places and in three different social environments. Those “rags” are the Republican flags of the Spanish Civil War, but also those of the Italian Resistance, forgotten by those – always the speaker – who only look at what is now and at what will be and forget the past. We look like us today, those forgetful ones; we who, compared to those sixties of faith in the magnificent and progressive fortunes, have also canceled the idea of ​​the future by precipitating towards an ecological catastrophe; we who exhaust ourselves in the present, if not in the moment, absolutely.

Calderón shows, immediately, a first substratum: it is a remake of Life is dream by Calderón de la Barca, Baroque text which narrates the misrepresentation of reality by a sovereign who wants to keep his son away from the possibility of undermining him from power, forcing him prisoner in a tower. At some point he will release him to test him, then, after the cruel failure of his government, he will lock him up again, making him believe he dreamed. Pasolini’s remake, set in Spain governed by the caudillo Francisco Franco, who emerged victorious from the Civil War, stages a fascist and bourgeois society, fascist as bourgeois, interested only in the particularheedless of the tragedies of the world.

He photographs 1967-1968 in three different environments: in an aristocratic family, among the prostitutes of a slum, around a large table, the true center of the rituals of a petit-bourgeois family. Fabio Condemi’s show, produced by Emilia Romagna Teatro (Ert) which debuted on November 2, the anniversary of Pasolini’s assassination, juxtaposes them spatially, in succession, well highlighting the different expressive tools Pasolini uses: the dream , political theatre, incest which is often a violation of political or social taboos, the conflict between reality and oneiric vision, with awakenings which violently deny the sensations of well-being accumulated during the nocturnal ‘journeys’.


Rosaura, the protagonist, opens her eyes to a world she doesn’t recognize, still enraptured by a dream world that opens up horizons that normal life can’t give her: and then, little by little, she has to deal with a brutality made up of sensible advice , of removals, of impositions, of shocking revelations that put the brake, uncovering traumas inherited from the past, on the flights of erotic desire.

It is also a story of impossible loves, if we mean freedom of the soul by love, in that concentration camp which is the family of Europe in an era of economic boom and technological neo-capitalism, a metaphor for other concentration camps, for embalmings such as the painting by Velasquez which is mentioned several times, Las Meninasa performance under the watchful gaze of royals who spy hidden and revealed by a suddenly illuminated mirror.

Condemi crystallizes on stage, that family, immobilized in a tableau vivant contained in a grid of black threads, from which the characters try to escape like flies caught in a cobweb.


In the first episode, in the aristocratic family, Rosaura converses with the damsel Stella, but Condemi shows her to us also asleep, in the little bed with an abat-jour and antique bedside table, while external voices in the distance confirm that we are in a psychic landscape. “I want to go back to where I was,” says the girl, declaring herself extraneous to wealth, to the environment of comfort and privilege in which she lives, while a portrait of Francisco Franco peeks out from a corner of the room. A minimal style room modernVery tech sixties, with light structures that will frame the ‘high’ interiors, while the brothel in the second part will be a sort of rough cage made of poor wood and bedsteads.

The three environments – conceived by Condemi, 32, winner of the 2021 Ubu award for best direction, trained at the Santacristina theater center in the wake of Luca Ronconi, created, together with the dramaturgy of the image, by Fabio Cherstich – invade different parts of the scene, exploring that dark cave that becomes the stage, a metaphor for the psyche. Sometimes the space is framed and closed or revealed by movable black curtains which, like the diaphragms of photographic lenses, dilate or restrict the shot, making us concentrate on details or allowing us to wander around in the picture.


There are three Rosaures, one for each part, in succession Matilde Bernardi, Carolina Ellero, Giulia Salvarani. All young. And here we need to suspend the story to talk about the operation carried out by Ert. The show is the first of the project “How do you imagine me”, dedicated to Pasolini. The idea is that the writer, director, poet, is known more for the biographical events and for the positions taken, indeed gradually simplified over the years, rather than known in depth for his works. And in any case, his name, compared to many others that have ended up forgotten, sheds some light even in the most recent generations. So the director of Ert, the director Valter Malosti, thought of having mostly young directors re-stage one of the least practiced parts of Pasolini’s corpus, the seven theatrical texts written in fury, during an illness, between 1966 and 1967, and then remedied in the following years.

Calderón was born in collaboration with the Lake of Lugano and with many partners of the European Prospero project. The next stages, between now and the end of the season, will see Giorgina Pi face off Pyladesthe Parisian Stanislas Nordey, one of the greatest European directors and pedagogues and director of the National Theater of Strasbourg, re-read Beast of style within the advanced training course of ERT, Federica Rosellini and Gabriele Portoghese conduct their own research on Orgy, which ideally continues the work at the Santacristina Theater Center in the summer of 2021. Pigsty will see the artistic encounter between Michela Lucenti and her Civil Ballet with Nanni Garella and his precious psychiatric patient actors of Art and Health. It will close the program Story-telling from Marco Lorenzi, summoning the archetypes of today’s family around the shadows of the events of Oedipus king.

Pasolini’s theatre, considered difficult, often cerebral and ideological, with that choice to stake everything on the word, on the word that questions the polis and its contradictions, is deeply rooted in the years in which it was conceived. The operation evidently invites young artists to explore whether, with these premises, those seven tragedies, not exempt from ideas or even humorous inspirations, can speak to the generations that followed, who did not experience the convulsions of the late twentieth century.


The three young Rosaures, with some differences in their acting caliber, nevertheless seem to me to embody in varying degrees the idea of ​​wonderful, vital, naive, lost, abused, led astray youth that is found in Pasolini. They, with Nico Guerzoni who plays the young Pablo, a sensitive adolescent homosexual, forced by friends to go to the prostitute Rosaura, and then the young revolutionary Enrique, also capture us with the leaps in recitation, on a journey into the idea of ​​youth exposed to a thousand risks.

Around the women and men of power. The older ones are different, for different static and enigmatic reasons: Donna Lupe, a sphinx-like Valentina Banci, keeps an unmentionable secret (first episode); Sigismondo (a sorrowful, deliberately resigned Emanuele Valenti), with whom the first Rosaura falls in love, we discover to be her father who as a young revolutionary joined Donna Lupe in the period full of hopes of the Republic, then defeated, derelict, forced into exile while she married a powerful man; Basilio, the ‘king’ in the original by Calderón de la Barca, who changes reality by imprisoning and giving the illusion of freedom, cynically experimenting on the skin of the youngest, is the one who holds and manages power.

The anger against the winners, against the corruptors, emerges in many moments, but above all in the final monologue of the dyslexic Rosaura of the last part, with the words in an uproar to indicate a world out of order. Upon Enrique’s arrival, the young revolutionary who falls into the bourgeois house asking to be welcomed and saved by the police, falls again into a dream and in the dream he sees the Nazi concentration camp (a metaphor for other concentration camps) and the arrival of red flags. choirs of workers who free the prisoners, in a tale of rare emotion.

Sixty-eight strings vibrate, even rhetorical if you like, following a disconsolate passage in which Pasolini through the mouth of Basilio reiterates that young revolutionaries are probing the very limits of bourgeois power, to then return to the familiar ranks, as in the controversial poem The PCI to the youngwho showed solidarity with the policemen who were sons of proletarians after the clashes in Valle Giulia in Rome in 1968.


There is an air of Brecht, here, in the ironic speaker, a falsely humble but insinuating, perfect Marco Cavalcoli; of Brecht reinterpreted by Barthes of the review “Théâtre Populaire”, who discovered in estrangement the strength to highlight the signs and, by connecting and shattering them, to make them mean in an unexpected way. There is Plato and there is Freud. There is the mask that covers the person, to reveal and hide. There is Ronconi, in Condemi’s intelligent staging, with the precise spatialization but not with the acting, which in the young director is fluent, at times passionate: the maestro, who inspired Condemi, had in the famous 1978 staging for the Laboratorio di Prato slowed down the voices, made the dictions flat, to highlight, once again to alienate. There is Velasquez, of course, and a discourse on the mirrors of power. There is the resigned Sigismondo, icon of the dream of change that ended in defeat.

They feel at the bottom Gramsci’s asheslife and history, e Petroleum, then in the writing phase, with Leucos (Caterina Meschini) and Melainos (Omar Mandè), servants of Basilio, nuncios, angels and devils, two parts of a single being. And the infinite novel appears in other passages. There is Basilio’s final monologue, Michele Di Mauro, a perfect, powerful, imperturbable and disturbing incarnation of the spirit of the bourgeoisie. While the black canvas slowly hides him from view, only his deep voice is heard, full of resonances, which once again deconstructs the liberating vision of the last Rosaura by repeating: it’s a dream, be careful not to confuse it with reality. There is a lot of politics and a lot of realism in this text, in striking conflict with desire and with the dream world.

Pasolini, by taking us into a dream within a dream within a dream, shakes the foundations of realism and of reality itself, remaining both deeply realist and political, opening psychic doors in a devastating and revealing way. And Condemi, with those refusals to believe in reality like sparks that open with pain and happiness in the darkness of the cave-stage, makes us understand that this poet with an ancient pace can enchant, reason, still excite today, and be a companion in our losses.

It is a pity that this Calderón, with the Rosaures also playing other characters and with the contribution of Elena Rivoltini as Donna Astrea, was staged for only five performances, which were highly applauded. It is the madness of the rush to produce that our theaters are forced by legislation. We hope to see him back on stage soon, for a long time.

Repeats on November 22nd and 23rd at the Lac di Lugano

The photographs are by Luca Del Pia.

Pasolini’s Calderón according to Fabio Condemi