January 17, 2023
On stage in these days of 2023 at the Teatro delle Moline in Bologna are the Newspaper com along with the ghosts of Henrik Ibsen: Home, doll! (produced in collaboration with ERT – National Theater and the Teatro della Caduta), title that does not indulge in fidelity to the text, while maintaining a firm contact with the classic dramamaking this piece a rhapsodic meta-theater of intimate parodies.
Everything in their Quotidianacom works is possible, except a linear plot. Never a philological fidelity, not even to oneself. She leaves with Him naked from behind and an equally bare proscenium. There is plenty of time to scroll the epidermis of the back side of Him, Roberto Scappin, properly illuminated, to even capture the taut ribs of the calves. She, Paola Vannoni (together they form Quotidianacom) is motionless on the diagonal that cuts the stage from his heels; he takes note of the man’s nakedness, what he thinks we’ll never know.
Inspired by the famous text by Ibsen a man and a woman invite each other on stage to “pretend to do” a doll’s house. They play with the meanings and symbols of a classic commented by Antonio Gramsci in L’Avanti in 1917. For the future PCI secretary, it was the spiritual drama of a “large and small” bourgeoisie, which becomes indignant at the end of the famous third act.
The third act that caused a scandal at the end of the 19th century, the one in which Nora decides to abandon her family out of loyalty to her life is fragmented in this work into many sketches slowed down by dense static silences, in which all the fury and all the sweetness that can unite a couple are felt.
We are inside the complex, refined mind of Scappin and Vannoni; Torvaldo and Nora (Ibsen’s characters) struggle between the text of their playwright and the compositional scalpels of daily.com, in a constant brooding double superimposition. Only two objects catalyze the attention: a plush tiger, called a transitional object, and two colored anti-stress balls. The drama becomes “drama”the scandal settles in argument.
(cover photo and text by Luca Del Pia)
The scenography has an imaginary location, it opens up in the shadows and mirrors behind the silver curtain. There things happen, from there come the voices of Nora and Torvaldo dubbed in turn by Scappin and Vannoni. Proscenium and stage coincide in a few meters occupied by a black table and two chairs. The curtain is drawn pass between the two living rooms of Ibsen and the Quotidianacom; beyond the curtain Nora and Torwaldenlocked inside the ancient drama, claim their reasons, mediated by the two actors who play a little and translate (transpose) the drama, thanks to a technique that knows how to decompress, rarefy the scene, suddenly.
In the mischievous commonality that has linked the Quotidianacom to comedy and “all exterior tragedies” for twenty yearsthis time we also find the couple medium, the psychologist; a doctor Bruno who symbolically divides and then reassembles the couple. One gave in thinking of triggering a change, the other followed him to heal an excess of desires; both then leave the couch of the unconscious “because even the psychologist doesn’t notice”, she will say; because “the lesson of the unconscious is a lesson in humility, that’s why you often don’t have access…” he will say.
The chapter dedicated to the sessions with Dr. Bruno surprises for the similarities – not so far-fetched – with the classic text: can it perhaps be traced back to the early days of psychotherapy at the end of the 19th century when Ibsen writes of a tormented and tired woman who abandons her husband? Nora acquired awareness, she would like to crush herself for having accepted for years a role in the humiliating, alienating bourgeois family theater. Perhaps even Paola Vannoni would like to crush herself – over a hundred years later – for the same reasons? Partly yes. We are precisely inside the parody, inside the life that resonates in it, at the center of which the doll, the skylark is still tragically at stake. Of course, less dramatically, perhaps flanked by a partner who winks, aspires to his own evolution, she goes to therapy.
In their homage (outrage to classical expectations) to the work of Ibsen, Paola Vannoni and Roberto Scappin are therefore not Nora and Torvaldo, nor are they their contemporary declination: rather they are the escape of the characters themselves from the text, from the theater, and also from the present. They are more and more themselves just on this side of their characters, in flight from themselves, from their memorable trilogies. Because this workwhich also draws from a theater classic, it is surprisingly contemporary, it is new compared to the repertoire of the two authors; in good and bad diverges, he opposes, he contrasts the comic with the humorous, he bares without restraint the infirmities of any moral, religious, gender and class political discourse made today.
But this isn’t even that obvious, it happens rather through an implicit dialectic of opposites which contrasts the words expressed aloud with those betrayed by the postures, by the faces, more than ever amazed, capable of a further turn of impassiveness. Every now and then a flicker, as if out of spite, a blue eye lights up, life beats. Summary: the actors on stage agree as extemporaneous authors to pretend to make a drama that ultimately fails them; they linger on their own supports, remaining at the same time on two levels, that of authors to trigger the scene, and that of actors on stage to disobey the script itself. Development: impossibility of true and false.
The investigation method of the Quotidianacom remains recognizable – heuristics made explicit – but only to be denied, annihilated with strokes by the calembour, of “theories of the plush”, thus managing to make it neither a drama nor a comedy, but rather a theatrical rhapsody. The spirits of Nora and her husband hover here and there from the curtain, invoked by one and the other, in a coming and going of appeals, assumptions, psychoanalytic sessions and manual solfeggio tests. Despite the brevity of the pièce, the variety (the variety?) is guaranteed.
The beginning. He naked desists in showing side A, obeys her and gains the first exit. She opens proscenium with Gramsci’s words: “Because the spectators, the knights and ladies who the other evening saw Nora’s spiritual drama develop, sure, humanly necessary, did not at a certain point vibrate with her soul, but remained dumbfounded and almost disgusted by the conclusion?”
Vannoni wonders: “What did the spectators expect? What do viewers expect today? The possibility of a dream? What do spectators dream while spectators do? That the roof will hold for another winter? A solar eclipse? I have no more time. To be a mother. The wife. The little doll. The squirrel. His sacred duties. The profane rights of him. Sacred duties collide with sacred rights. If we remove sacred duties against rights. Right and reverse. Nora is the flip side. Spectators did not expect this.” Thus begin the verbal and basin dances; from here on, he returned dressed in black, the two take turns at the table, at the game, at the ballet without ever defeating each other, without even abandoning the idea of a kitchen knife in a plastic bag, of an imaginary quartering of a dog. All to disrupt the story through an apparently random prosaic expedient that suddenly falls, an urgent urination, a quote from Battisti, from the Beatles. Pop makes its impromptu irruptions, acts as a desecrating driving force.
Certainly not missing the proverbial irony of the Quotidianacom, which indeed animates the work, but this time it is even more subtle, friendlier than sarcasm; she travels to the notes of a Bach fugue performed with a toy clavietta waiting for the woman’s fingers under the table.
While Ibsen’s couple separate intoning the drama, Paola and Roberto consolidate the dispute, “problematize” the impossibilities of the present; however, the stress hormones are already decreasing, she grants contact, from the angry stasis of many of their comedies we find here, in the archetype of the couple, a significantly resolved duo, reconciled to their inscrutable destiny, in a temporary armistice of confrontations. Make no mistake however, a daring syllogism stands out surprisingly at the end… The Communist male. The fascist male… Finally extolling the politically incorrect. This, we believe, increases the merit of the present work.
Doll’s house!, Arena del Sole, Bologna, Doll’s house, ERT Teatro Emilia Romagna, Ibsen, Paola Vannoni, Quotidiana, Roberto Scappin, contemporary theater, Teatro delle Moline