The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the category “Muppets over Italy… feelin’ lucky, punk?”

A Clockwork Orange in Rome

ELISEO_TE-MASTER-Manifesti-cartoline-fronte-18091514 copia(1)

What’s it going to be then, eh? Doing a brand new production of A Clockwork Orange is always going to be problematic. Visually do you go with the iconic – the one false eyelash; the Doc Martens boots; the braces; the bowler hat? And even if you’re not going to go with these iconic ingredients – you certainly have to suggest some elements of British yob culture. The boots – surely? Essential for employing a bit of the old ultra. Well – slooshy well, my droogs: I’ve seen a few stage productions of A Clockwork Orange over the years and while they always crave to be original there’s no escaping the big bolshy elephant in the room that is the Stanley Kubrick film.

Of course these productions have all been British and performed in English/Nadsat. British being the key here. In the original book Anthony Burgess captured the whole Anglo-Saxon mixed with Celtic and Viking mentality of being in a gang and looking for a fight. Nothing much has changed over the years and the old ultra-violence is indelibly inked on our psyche so no wonder we Brits are good at portraying it artistically.

So can the land of music, art, beauty and general gorgeosity lower itself into the depths of a very typically British hell? Oh yes, yes, yes my little droogies!

First off – the visuals: this production doesn’t take the easy copycat route. Instead of the hard carapace of the original uniform as per the book/film we’re presented with Alex and his droogs in stylish Italian suits and soft slip-on shoes. They also wear pieces of shaggy fur which suggest their animalistic tendencies and give a promise of the carnage that will ensue. In place of the maskies the droogs put on pairs of spectacles and just before the ultra starts they check their cuffs in true dandy fashion. These devices are simple, effective and manage to capture something of the spirit of the image-obsessed delinquents of the original book and as well as being so typically Italian. Very clever.

The rest of the staging is staggeringly well done. There’s a general black/white/acid yellow (orange would have been too obvious) colour scheme which lends an air of danger and edginess like having lemon juice dripped into your eyes which (like Alex) you can’t close as you remain fascinated and horrified at the same time.

So what of the iconic (there’s no getting away from that word… ) set-pieces? The Ludovico treatment/torture scene is probably the most striking and is used as the opening scene as well as taking its place later on in the story. Bolts of electrical energy shot down from above into Alex’s head in imagery that’s reminiscent of Frankenstein which is a neat little nod re his becoming the automaton of the title. Just as effective though is the notorious rape scene – done in slow-motion – which is chilling and sickening – as it should be. The setting – the ‘Home’ residence of the gang’s victims – is a sterile glass box with minimalist furniture which is probably the one image most similar to the film. However the whole idea of moving the box towards the audience is a genius move making us watch in horror (echoing Alex’s words: ‘viddy well’).

The music is wonderfully effective as well. Ludwig’s glorious Ninth is put to good – and integral – use. But there is also some marvellous original material – for example when Alex returns home after his treatment there’s a gloriously queasy soundtrack that’s paired with the visual image of an opaque shutter being brought down at the front of the stage. It reflects beautifully his alienation and bewilderment and like so much of this extraordinary staging is marvelously imagined and executed.

Okay – I’ve raved on enough about the staging – maybe because as my grasp of the Italian language is so woeful I have to depend on the sensory experience. But excellent performances transcend language barriers and that’s what you get from this stellar cast – particularly from Daniele Russo as Alex.

I mentioned before A Clockwork Orange being essentially a British construct and Anthony Burgess was a very British author. But we have to remember he was also a lapsed Catholic and lived in Rome for some time. He also resented that this notorious work was what he was best remembered for. Free will, religion and what makes us human were the important themes which informed his work. They are there in A Clockwork Orange but down the years they have been swamped by the imagery of the Kubrick film. As well as the striking images this production also has the important themes – Burgess would have been impressed.


A Silent Pleasure

monellolargeYou may think that there would be enough outstanding experiences to pack into any stay in Rome. After all una vita non basta… You may think a trip to the theatre would be pretty far down the list. There are the practicalities – when your Italian barely stretches beyond ordering a meal and getting directions. Maybe the theatre would be a good way to improve language skills?  Hmmm… Buoyed up with the fact that I’m a veteran of many Edinburgh Festival (the official one, the international one) productions that have been performed in everything from Cantonese to Serbo-Croat with the inevitably non-working or non-visible super-titles. I’m used to not having a clue about what’s meant to be going on – the important thing is going along with the flow – just letting the magic wash over you. It also helps of course if there’s no dialogue and if you’re also familiar with the story…

So… imagine my joy when a friend pointed me in the direction of Teatro Vittoria in Testaccio where the current production is Il Monello which translates as The Kid. OK – you’re ahead of me already. It is The Kid as in the Charlie Chaplin creation. And it is (almost) completely silent. To explain – it’s a frame-for-frame recreation of the original film (well, I think so… it has been a few years since my last viewing… ) It’s the one where Charlie accidentally adopts a young scamp – the Kid of the title – and they rub along together on the lower edge of society getting into various scrapes until the inevitable revelation threatens to tear them apart. If you’re not familiar with the story I won’t spoil it by telling you the outcome. I will tell that you may need some hankies with Chaplin’s original music tugging at the heart-strings from the start.

The actors themselves are outstanding  – the lead player: Brian Latini – appearing like a Chaplin reincarnation. Every nuanced move drawing laughter, gasps and tears from the enthralled audience. The Kid (Gabriele Davoli) is suitably cute and precociously talented and inevitably elicits the biggest cheer from the predominately nonna crowd present on the Sunday afternoon we were there. Working hard are the remaining two members of the cast – Roberto Fazioli as the towering, glaring foil to the little tramp in the shape(s) of cop and local hard-man. Particularly good is Francesca di Franco who beautifully merges silent-cinema-luminosity with stark neo-realist angst especially in the heart-wrenching moments when she has to give up her child.

The run of Il Monello finishes this Sunday (17 May) so you’ll have to hurry to catch it. Truly, it’s a real treat and the whole idea of taking the intimate magic of classic cinema and recreating it as an intimate theatrical treat is bold and very effective. If you can’t make this one please keep Teatro Vittoria in mind for a future visit. I noticed in ‘forthcoming attractions’ a production of Coriolanus which looks visceral and exciting enough to transcend any language barrier!

Muppets eat Bologna!

I can’t believe it’s been two years since the cheesy bromance that is Italy Unpacked first hit our screens.  (see my original review below) Apparently there are still acres of la bella Italia to be subjected to the over-ripe patter of this pair. This time around it’s the turn of the east coast which includes (in the first episode) the particularly bella regione of Puglia. Which puts me in a difficult situation – wanting to see the old country but having to put up with the Top Gear meets Brokeback Mountain nonsense of the presenters. True to form A G-D has helpfully offered some ‘essential’ tips for visiting Italy by way of an aperitivo to the series. Let’s see – ‘don’t ever order a cappuccino after 11am’ … right… Apart from losing count of the number of times I’ve heard that one – it’s absolute garbage. Ask anyone in Italy and you’ll get a look like the one we Scots reserve for when we get asked about the Loch Ness Monster. Which makes me think that this whole confection is the worst kind of Italio-travel-porn made for people who either – love the idea of Italy but have never gone there – or – had a city-break or a quick whizz-around on a tour bus. So here’s my bit of advice – get yourself over there, spend a decent amount of time and engage with the people. Loosen up and you’ll find yourself part of a marvelous and maddening family full of the warmest and most brilliant people in the world. And further more – they are REAL – and not bit-players in a travelogue created by ‘The Chuckle Brothers with an art history degree’. p.s. I will watch it but thank God for recording and the fast-forward button!

Muppets unpacked

Muppets unpacked

What is it about the BBC and their fondness for the ‘bromance travelogue‘? Back on our screens this week – a little aperitivo for the chattering classes as they plan this year’s trip to Umbria or Emilia Romagna (Toscana is so twenty years ago) – is Italy Unpacked, featuring that right pair of muppets: Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon. The premise is ‘uomo macho’ Locatelli swaggers and sweats his way around the old country, as ‘uomo colto’ Dixon simpers and sweats even more. (What is it about Dixon and perspiring? He’s presented countless other programmes in countries hotter than Italy and appeared daisy-fresh – is this applied neorealism or does Dixon merely melt after a whiff of Locatelli’s testosterone?). I’m sure the BBC is thinking Boswell/Johnson, Quixote/Panza, Crosby/Hope but quite honestly the structure of Italy Unpacked makes ‘The Road’ films look like John le Carre! The action goes something like this: Locatelli cooks up some dodgy dish, usually involving something pulled – Hemingway-like – out of the sea, serves it up to his adoring pal; they engage with some dentally-challenged locals – with Dixon looking even more uncomfortable at this point; they both then visit some nearby fresci, do a bit of oohing and aahing while they play creepy art teacher and naughty boy kept back for detention. They speed off – Top Gear-like – into the sunset, e finito – another one in the can. Where is Francesco da Mosto these days? Surely this kind of travel porn is best done by the formaggio-maestro himself and not two charisma-free dads exploring their mid-life crisis. The campaign starts here: ditch the bromance and bring back da Mosto!!da mosto

Last night I dreamt of the inevitable

Monday 21st April

Here we are in the countdown to home return and after three weeks of successfully relegating all thoughts of home to my deepest subconscious visions and images started to appear in my dreams last night. And did I feel homesick for the grey understated grandeur of Auld Reekie with its wide streets and pavements, general lack of grafitti and litter and its cool, genteel air? Not really, maybe because I know my return is inevitable so what would be the point of squandering my final days on some daft abstract concept like ‘home-sickness’. Now there’s a bourgeois conceit if ever there was one..

It’s Easter Monday and I can’t over-emphasise how quiet everything is – there’s marginally more going on than yesterday (Tuodi and Conrad were both open in the morning and Circolo delgli Artisti has an all-day Pasquetta Festival on but it all looks a bit Glastonbury without the music or any of the entertainment – that may happen later but it’s a blisteringly hot (to us honkies!) day so we return to the refuge of the flat. And as even the mighty Yeah! is closed – where sanctuary could normally be found – tempers get fraught and the day ends on a bit of a downer.

Tuesday 22nd April

In a semi-desperate effort to mop up some of the ‘must-do and see’s’ before our time is up (stupid really, we will be back) we venture into Rome centre after buying 4 x 100 min travel tickets at the local Tabacchi. That gets us to Testaccio no problem – the new ‘improved’ market looks new but not improved so we have a quick scoot around but tempers start to fray and bladders start to bulge so the inevitable search for a toilet ensues – we end up at the Protestant Cemetery and use theirs (top tip when at Pyramide!!) We then make our way to Ponte Milvio – way up in the north of town where we’ve never ventured before – to view the padlocks symbolising lovers’ declarations and the site of some battle involving Constantine (I’m being very flip here – I know it’s staggering significance re christian and western history). We then take the tram down the lengthy via Flaminia, sweating as the 100 mins on our second lot of travel tickets ticks away. We get off at Piazza del Popolo, wander around the Augustus Tomb area – decide we’re too tired to view the new museum there. We try to buy to two tickets to get back to Pigneto but draw blanks everywhere – it dawns on me later that the tickets must be becoming collectors items as they feature various popes. Even by Rome standards the centre is looking pretty mental (all to do with JP2’s sainthood thing) so we decide to walk all the way back to Pigneto. If nothing else it was a good (and much needed) workout. So focused was I that I apparently walked past Denzel Washington carrying a shit-load of designer bags (Richard told me later). Quite depressing really that he was fulfilling that complete stereotype but then I went off him when I read that he would only do love scenes with ‘women of colour’ after bowing to pressure from certain groups of narrow-minded people. Sa-a-a-ad.

Knackered in extremis so get a very early night.

Beyond holiday – a lesson in social experimentation

Over the half way mark now and have gone well and truly native – I know when the grumpy check-out people work their shifts in Tuodi (there’s only one really) so have arranged my shopping routine accordingly, we don’t stay in of an evening accessing old British sitcoms on Youtube and playing them through the telly in the flat, we know to scrape together the exact money when paying for things in shops and when we don’t have the change we give an Italian-like shrug, we cringe whenever we venture into the centre of Rome and hear Brits or Americans speaking or looking clueless.

Highlights so far:

1. Lucilla – who has gone from landlady for the month to dear friend – showing us around Castelli Romani and introducing us to her lovely family and showing us the most staggering hospitality.

2. Richard and I putting together a seven hour playlist of classic British tracks that was unleashed in Yeah! last Monday and will exist for all eternity on Spotify – just waiting for the touch of a hipster’s finger to release the Brit genie from the bottle.

3. Any night with Alessandro and his unbridled passion for all things British. Even when he’s only being fuelled by green tea his enthusiam ignites the room. What a guy!

4. Ciak pizzeria – forget what I’ve said about any other pizza place – this is the real deal! It may even be as good as The Jolly… with the added bonus that it’s in Italy – wow!

All these things have made me feel like my little heart is about to burst.. hopefully there will be more experiences in the next week and a half…

Remember – ‘Don’t worry that your life will end – worry that it may never start… ‘

Gerard Depardieu sighted in Edinburgh shock!

GD pic 4

It does always brighten up one’s morning, whilst stuck on the top deck of a number 33 bus, to view the various types of people trying to make a sneaky exit from The Balmoral hotel. They can be seen slipping into a chauffeur-driven limousine, looking like they don’t have two ha’pennies to rub together, usually with some rough trade in tow, embarrassed as busloads of the Proletariat give them big stares! Actually – I swear I saw Gerard Depardieu leaving there yesterday – but he’s in Moldova, isn’t he? Come to think of it, this person was probably half the size of GD and it may have been a woman, if so – ouch!GD pic 3

Later in the day, at the self check-out at Sainsburys Murrayfield, I noticed a commotion at the neighbouring till: two goth-metal rockers – all flowing hair, black leather and 14-hole-DMs – struggling with the scanner. What was their purchase? Two monster bottles of Lambrini!! I later saw them sharing it out with their mates waiting on the bench outside. Rock and roll, guys!!!

Day ended with seeing the new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge – which I presume is all part of an effort to cheer up the nation? It’s hilarious – making her look like she’s finally been subsumed into the Royal Family as described by David Icke. Those eyes have a definite reptilian look!

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