We recently met up with Ricci/Forte, the authors and directors of Grimmless, on show at Venice’s Teatro Fondamenta Nuove on October 14. It’s part of a special segment of the Venice Biennale, reserved for the Italian contemporary art scene.
First and foremost, tell us a few words about you: what were Ricci/Forte’s beginnings? What training did you have and who were your masters?
As regurgitated by-product of classic training like the kind received at the National Academy of the Dramatic Arts, we felt that the twilight of creativity was dangerously near. The theater scene seemed to be an sparse expanse of destruction, waiting for regulars intent on moving toward extermination. Albeit, we did have some secluded regenerating encounters, like our meetings with Luca Ronconi who set the inter-textual dynamics of language afire. Still—the need to face up to the contemporary scene did not launch a Bengal light. Going to New York and coming into contact with the performing arts triggered a reaction, creating the nuclear chain that still accompanies us today.
When did you start working together and in which areas?
Sleepless nights force you to follow even the softest of noises and allow you to launch yourself without dispensation into the darkness of surrounding consciousness, pushing your gaze to search for a reflection. In the carousel of incongruous combinations, we found ourselves establishing a pact based on ethical and expressive elements. Sharing amongst ourselves was almost natural, inescapable even. Our habitat—the lunar crust on which we have always walked—is the theater stage. Stefano, Gianni and the stage: a modern wind vane to counter the stench of our individual yesterdays.
Which comes first theater or cinema?
There’s not a first or a second. We only have a continuum where the uvula takes on connotations that better articulate the linguistic code. All of this is projected toward story and the need for sharing. The media is just a tool. The real effort is to be able to recount something that is not a betrayal of our expressive essence. Muffed thunder, whispered resounding, ogival flare-ups or the jingling of baccarat crystal chandeliers—when communication is established within heterogeneous perimeters, there are all sorts of consequences within the system. Particles escape to the margins. Meanings explode, prodigious phenomenon flare-up…these are the echoes we’re referring to. They are the lymph of a philosophic approach that focuses on a brand of expression that’s free from the boundaries man imposes. Its horizons are limited to each frame.
You came into the limelight thanks to your work as screenwriters for an Italian TV series. But in the world of theater, you are recognized as the creators of a powerful new form of language and poetics which have generated more cynical scenes of contemporary society: How much has your work for television influenced your theater text?
There’s the ability to face up to something and the challenge of feeling affection and attachment for something that doesn’t past the screen test. Then, there’s time that’s always somehow lacking and the idea of each instant being fragmented so that visions and concepts can develop and take on the contours of that which must be…reflecting our own gaze as accurately as possible. If it’s true that we are all what we do, the question should be reformulated: how much does your life influence dramaturgic creations? The poor Sphinx would be forced to fast due to the innumerable exact responses of so many Oedipus’s, as a tribute to Who wants to be a Millionaire.
After your latest successes, including a collaborative venture with the Fendi Foundation for a special project called ‘Some Disordered Christmas Interior Geometries’, you’ve just disembarked at Venice’s Biennale. What does it mean to you to have been invited to the ‘Biennale Teatro 41’ International Festival?
There’s a continuous crash test against the present time, not with its ordeals per say. We have been invited to participate in collaborative projects which imply the sponsorship of several foundations and have received invitations to prestigious international events like ‘Biennale Venezia Teatro 011’ and the one we received from current director Alex Rigola. This situation forces us to keep a high critical sense about the input we give. By updating our way of articulating the uneasiness that moves through us, linking ourselves to others, we outline a course that runs from Manchuria to Times Square, in a jaded and oxygen-giving experiment allowing us to retrace our own footsteps.
Strongly supported by director Alex Rigola, ‘Young Italian Brunch’ is a special section reserved for up-and-coming talents on the Italian scene. Do you consider it a breath of fresh air for the this Venetian institution and for Italian theater?
Amidst the bureaucratic and cultural lethargy that characterizes the Bel Paese’s make-up, one is numbed by the epidural of post-prandial theater, or even worse, contented with aesthetically juicy shows that are empty in terms of content and concepts. Long-live Italy’s runways—they’re a saving grace that stimulates new artistic fermentation inside the putrid stagnating water of a listless, ignorant country that lies a million light years away from the meaning of contemporary.
On October 15, at Venice’s Teatro Fondamenta Nuove the curtain will go up on Grimmless, your latest work based on stories by the Brothers Grimm. Why did you move closer to fairy-tales?
We feel like the moment has arrived to analyze Evil at its genesis. Childhood, a fertile landscape for all future deprivations, used to rock us to sleep with its distorted fairy-tales, golden cartoons and methadone future. We are the stories they told us. We survive in that which they told us. The time has come to say that enough is enough and finally become story-tellers of our own condition. And without a happy ending. Our sole ‘magic wand’ is our wanting to stubbornly stand on our own two feet. Without waiting for some Godot wearing the guise of Prince Charming. Just us. And the rediscovery of a life that’s without fairytales. Even without them, our days are full and overflowing with action.
Is it a departure from naturalism in order to move closer to a reality that’s even more authentic?
A man who’s been beaten by his adversary can get up again, but a man who falls to the ground because he’s been tripped by conformity remains lying on the ground forever. Tired of the thermal cushions used to counter the sudden cold, we are carefully dedicating ourselves to an undiscounted diurnal autonomy designed to recuperate poetic glow, precisely because it has been shattered by the paraphernalia of the good-natured mystification that’s linked to Borghese survival.
You’ve often been appreciated for the empathy that your characters have inspired in audiences. In Grimmless, this doesn’t happen, or at least there is not time for it to happen…Was this done on purpose? What other axes does Grimmless follow and what relationship do you have with its actors…how much space do you leave for improvisation and how much is closely tied to the script?
We’re not dealing with characters. Empathy with the audience is generated by the unveiling of a shared indisposition accompanied by identical efforts to de-codify it. The show’s five performers (Anna Gualdo, Giuseppe Sartori, Valentina Beotti, Andrea Pizzalis and Anna Terio) are fully revealed, ready to share something private for the sake of common understanding. The spirals of improvisation are a form of dizziness that help us bring light to the journey undertaken. Our toy-soldiers-without-fairytales know this and they experience their trail period with trust and absolute generosity, conscious that their precious individual patrimony will be re-elaborated and recomposed in light of an architectural reality that respects them and supports life-saving ethics—it’s a new brand of humanism.
With Grimmless we felt the need for the spectator to continuously perceive the actor’s ability to manipulate him or her, placing at the forefront other people’s skill at telling ‘fairy-tales’ and transfiguring Reality. We needed to reach a climax which contemplates a ventricular adherence, which is later clearly separated so that it’s mystifying capacity can be fully revealed. When compared to previous works ‘Grimless’ is much more intimate, despite its seeming coldness.
We simply did not want to let the spectator be overcome with emotion, forgetting about the puppeteer axiom. At the same time, however, it’s more limpid than our other works, the most diaphanous and sincere statement of one’s own inanity. In the toy-soldiers-without-a-fairytale’s trip through the forest, there’s a compression of emotion. A short-circuit of internal visions rather than realistic characters or situations: these are out-of-the-ordinary insects that communicate by showing their iridescent wings, crumpled from the effort. Ricci/Forte