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William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)

by Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor

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Double Fo

 

 

Titles:   The Virtuous Burglar & Marcolfa

Author:   Dario Fo

Translator:   Joseph Farrell

Director:   Chris Gatt

Cast:   Edward Mercieca, Mikhail Basmadjian, Alan Paris, Philip Stilon, Renato Dimech, Magda Van Kuilenburg, Coryse Borg, Charlotte Grech

Set Design:   Romualdo Moretti

Venue:   Manoel Theatre

Dates:   29, 30 March, 4, 6 April 2014

Summary:   Double Fo is a double bill of Dario Fo farces, including The Virtuous Burglar and Marcolfa.  In The Virtuous Burglar, a burglar attemots to burgle a house only for the owner of the house to return home with his mistress.  Chaos ensues when the burglar's wife calls at the house believing she will find her husband.  THe wife of the owner also turns up and eventually we learn that she too is having an affair.  By the end of the play, we find out that the only one not having an affair is the burglar.  In Marcolfa, igly old Marcolfa wins the Vienna lottery and all the men around her start to woo her.  She is a simple woman but tries to make the best of this discovered femininity.

Marcolfa was given the World Premiere in English in this production.

 

What the Papers Said:

Unifaun takes Italian comedy to the Manoel and gets a laugh ‘Fo sure

 Double the Fun with Double Fo

 There is something very particular about the brand of humour which the peoples of the Mediterranean have in common.  It is equally dark and farcial, blunt and visceral, creating a resultant hilarity which is hard to match. Indeed, nothing beats a good dose of Italian comedy and Unifaun’s double bill of it, “Double Fo”, at the Manoel Theatre last weekend, was a clear exponent of a style that Dario Fo was keen to explore – character-driven, situational comedies, which brought a sense of levity to his more serious, socio-political and academically inclined work.  Fo’s work in translation by Joseph Farrell did not lose any of its original humour, however I did feel that having both plays acted with a Italian accent did nothing for the comedy itself and smacked rather of the stereotypical.  This being said, the quality of the work itself was very high and certainly enjoyable.

The first short play on offer, “The Virtuous Burglar” had Philip Stilon star as a Burglar who is interrupted by a phone call, mid-robbery, from his wife (Magda Van Kuilenburg) who proceeds to give him a good earful (what in Italian is described beautifully as a “ramanzina”).  The ensuing conversation and the fact that the situation they found themselves in was ludicrous to the extreme was only exacerbated by the fact that once the conversation had ended, the burglar was interrupted by the home owner (Mikhail Basmadjian) with the woman he hoped to make his mistress (Coryse Borg).  Hiding inside the large grandfather clock, the burglar is first subjected to the trysting couple’s love problems, as the woman agonises about the moral looseness of their situation and refuses to go to bed; and then is exposed by his wife’s second phone call on the apartment’s land line. The Burglar’s wife, incensed at certain insinuations made and worried that her husband is up to no good with the “woman” at the flat, ends up involving the home owner’s wife Anna (Charlotte Grech) who turns up with her own lover, Antonio in tow (Alan Paris). Both Mr Stilon and Ms Van Kuilenburg stole the show in this piece, with their fast-paced catty conversation of the “Yes dear” variety impeccably performed, while Mr Basmadjian and Ms Borg gave great accompanying performances, feeding off each other and pulling off the overly-eager, randy Casanova and the not-so-innocent love conquest very well. Ms Grech’s haughty Anna was just as disinterested in her husband as he was in her and this contrasted with her character Teresa, in the second short play, “Marcolfa”, this time set in a 19th century Neapolitan palazzo where the brilliant Alan Paris (in drag) played old Marcolfa whose apparent lottery win makes her suddenly desirable to her master, the desperately indebted Marchese Di Trerate (Edward Mercieca). Mr Paris is a great comic actor and paired with the inimitable Mr Mercieca, bagged plenty of laughs in this send up of the populist melodrama style where every emotion and reaction is heightened and exaggerated.  This was the premiere of “Marcolfa” in English and the cast, with Mikhail Basmadjian as Giuseppe, Teresa’s husband, Renato Dimech as the servant Francesco and Coryse Borg as the Principessa, the Marchese’s surreptitious love interest, all gave well-choreographed, polished performances. The versatility of the actors in taking on generically divergent roles was admirable, while Director Chris Gatt’s tight vision for the blocking and interpretation was evident, in spite of the fact that the second play was notably less refined in terms of the generic and dramatic legacies to which it affiliates itself. Romualdo Moretti’s set design, was as always, the ideal backdrop for the two pieces, which incidentally both included a considerable number of people hiding and disappearing into constructed furniture, getting several laughs from the audience.  Double Fo Made for a very enjoyable evening out and is not to be missed.

 -Andre Delicata, The Timeso f Malta, 2 April 2014

 

 

AN ITALIAN MASTER OF FARCE

 Farce is not normally Unifaun's favourite genre, so perhaps it was Fo's celebrity as a left-wing author that drew Adrian Buckle in the first place to performing Dario Fo's Double Fo, in English versions, in addition to the attraction of a production that would attract sizeable audiences to  Teatru Manoel.

 "The virtuous burglar" and "Marcolfa" are brilliant one-acters relying on similar techniques.  The former is a clever work depending on the increasingly frenzied activity that develops when three couples engaged or trying in vain to get engaged in adulterous relations are thrown together when an unfortunate burglar's thieving expedition goes completely wrong.  The Burglar (Philip Stilon) has a bossy and very inquisitive wife (Magda van Kuilenburg) who rings him up as he is carrying out the burglary on the house's telephone  and ruins all his timing, forcing him to hide inside, of all places, a large grandfather clock when the Man who owns the house (Mikhail Basmadjian) unexpectedly comes in with the Woman he is desperately trying to bed (Coryse Borg).  

 For him too things go wrong when the phone rings - it's the Burglar's wife again - the Burglar is forced to leave his hiding -place, and then comes in Anna, the Man's wife (Charlotte Grech) who is fobbed off with an improvised story about the Burglar and the Woman's being husband and wife.  Things come to a head, however, when the Burglar's wife walks in, followed  by yet another husband - who is also a lover  (Alan Paris).

 Dario Fo uses Italian men's fascination with women to create a farce that may strike some as being too true to reality, and makes fun of other Italian weaknesses such as Italian men's hunger for celebrity  typified by the Burglar's pride in being a criminal of note, or of having been successful in one of the many television quizzes popular in Italy, the Woman typifying this.  Both in this farce and in "Marcolfa" fire-arms are used with comic effect, and the grandfather clock in which the burglar and others take refuge from time to time finds a parallel in "Marcolfa" where a roomy wardrobe provides a refuge again and again.  Fo is quite skilled in providing endings with a double twist, more spectacularly in "Marcolfa."

 The latter play, which is set in the 1840s, has a plot centred round the character in the title part, a woman played as in the original Italian production by a man  (Alan Paris) who is the middle-aged governess of the debt-ridden Marchese di Trerate (Edward Mercieca).  She is a good person who has never been considered as a marriageable  woman by any man, save by the humble and insignificant Francesco (Renato Dimech) until it becomes known she has a winning lottery ticket that will bring her in a great sum.  She now finds herself, initially to her bwilderment but ultimately to her delight,  courted by the Marchese's principal creditor Giuseppe (Mikhail Basmadjian) and by the Marchese himself, not realising (this is  farce, after all) that they are both after her newly acquired money. 

 She accepts Giuseppe's marriage prtoposal, leading to a comical duel between him and the Marchese, now wearing his gaudy Hussar uniform, a duel comically thwarted by Francesco who is trying to prevent his beloved Marcolfa's being married to men who do not love her.  The intervention of  two other women who are themselves after marrying the Marchese, brings matters to a comically violent climax, and revelations regarding Marcolfa's fortune bring the plot to a hilarious close.

 Chris Gatt directs two fine casts with a good eye for the ever increasingly rapid rhythm of the two farces and for the detail, both pychological and physical, of the main comic  episodes in the two plots such as the one following the discovery of the Burglar in the first piece, and the grotesque duel in the second.  Both pieces have a kingpin of outstanding ability: Basmadjian's Man in the first, Paris's Marcolfa in the second.  Basmadjian's Man is what every farce needs to have: a person who finds himself in a very precarious situation, and is clearly agonised  by his knowledge of this and of his inability to get out of it.  The main thing, of course, is that  his agony is not  the dark one  of drama but the excruciatingly funny one of farce. Basmadjian's performance is three-dimensional and keeps on developing.  It deserves close study both by students and by practising professionals. This actor acquires a different persona as Giuseppe in the other piece, doing also well in it.

 Paris, unrecognisable in his female wig and a hooked nose, also manages the feat of being a woman with recognisably womanly gestures and movements and at the same time a hilarious  creation without ever playing for laughs. He achieves what Fo certainly had in mind, that of being a victim in a man's world, saved by the man who is the only one who loves her, and Renato Dimech as Francesco makes the leap from the nondescript man of his first entrance to the comic hero of the last part of the piece.  Edward Mercieca, a veteran of comedy and farce, brings out the overweening selfishness of the Marchese, looks absurd when he thinks he is impressive in his scarlet uniform,  and truly deserves his come-uppance at the end.

 Philip Stilon's Burglar in the first play is a comical mixture of submissive husband, proud professional, and stereotypic Italian when he seizes his opportunity to have a fling with Coryse Borg's sexually charged Woman in her minidress but calms down when his wife (a comically aggressive van Kuilenburg) enters the scene. In the second piece Borg keeps the Principessa's sexuality under control, stressing her superciliousness instead.

 Charlotte Grech, an elegant and superior Anna in the first piece, and a furious, gun-toting Teresa in the second, keeps both pieces moving fast at crucial moments leading to climaxes in the plot.

 

Paul Xuereb, The Sunday Times of Malta, 6 April 2014




ZEWG FARES TA’ DARIO FO

DARIO Fo, attur, drammaturgu, muzicista, u politiku Taljan mhux l-ewwel darba li gie fl-inkwiet minhabba kitbietu.  Jattakka b’mod apert dak kollu li ma joghgbux fis-socjeta Taljana.  Biex jaghmel dan, juza d-dahk, is-satira u l-fares biex waqt li jdahhaq u jiddeverti jghaddi kummenti kontra personaggi minn kull strata tal-hajja, programmi tat-TV , films u dak kollu li kien isehh f’pajjizu.  Mhux l-ewwel darba li kitbietu gibed kundanna.  Sahansitra l-Vatikan kien iccensura mill-inqas zewg xoghlijiet tieghu.  Madankollu fl-1997 inghata l-Premju Nobel ghal=Letteratura,premju li jfisser l-importanza tieghu fuq il-palk mondjai.  Ma jfissirx li kull ma kiteb hu jew kien farsesk jew satiriku, imma z-zewg xoghlijiet li Unifaun Theatre bi produzzjoni ta’ Adrian u Sarah Buckle tellghet fit-Teatru Manoel zgur li kienu.  Irrid nghid mill-ewwel li l-atturi li hadu sehem kienu tajbin hafna u dahlu sew fl-ispirtu taz-zewg fares biex tawna serata mill-aqwa.

 Iz-zewg xoghlijiet li kollettivament inghataw l-isem ta’ DOUBLE FO kienu The VirtuousBurglar u .Marcolfa.  Fl-ewwel xoghol li rajna niltaqghu ma’ halliel li jidhol jisraq imma li xejn ma jmurlu tajjeb. Biex tkompli tghaxxaqha, il-mara tieghu (Magdalena  van Kuilenburg f’burdata mill-aqwa)  tkompli thawwad il-borma u ma thallihx kwiet.  .Jibdew jaslu rgiel u nisa kollha bi hsieb wiehed f’mohhhom – li ma jkunux fidili ghal zwieghom u n-nisa taghhom. Fo certament ried jitfa’ l-attenzjoni fuq il-hafna adulterji li jsehhu fil-pajjiz gar taghna.  M’ghamilx dan billi kiteb xoghol serju jew qaghad jippriedka imma billi dahhaq , anzi qasam bid-dahk lill-udjenza fit-teatru.  U l-atturi Maltin taht id-direzzjoni deciza ta’ Chris Gatt tassew qaxxru l-parti !

 It-tieni xoghol kien jismu Marcolfa, mara ta’ mezza-eta` li qatt ma hasbet li se tizzewweg izda malli rebhet il-premju tal-lotterija l-kbira , daru ghaliha l-irgiel li riedu flusha u mhux lilha.  Il-parti ta’ Marcolfa nhadmet minn Alan Paris li kull darba li deher fuq il-palk kien milqugh b’approvazzjoni u dahk (l-iktar meta beda jaqbez u jferfer saqajh, Jew saqajha? ) L-istess atturi hadmu f’dan it-tieni xoghol li rega’ gibed l-attenzjoni u c-capcip ta’ kulhadd.  Fosthom il-Markiz ta’ Trerate , parti li nhadmet minn Edward Mercieca li ha post Alan Montanaro li kien indispost (minn hawn nawguralu).  Ma kienx cert minnu nnifsu daqs is-soltu, imma fic-cirkostanzi mar tajjeb zgur (ghalkemm fl-ewwel farsa beda jitlef l-accent Taljan)    

 Dawn iz-zewg fares jinhtiegu sens ta’ timing perfett biex kollox jahdem harir.  L-atturi li ntaghzlu huma esperti f’dan il-qasam.  Hawn tajjeb li nsemmu l-atturi li hadu sehem fosthom Coryse Borg, Mikhail Basmadjian (attur iehor li spikka fl-interpretazzjonijiet  eccellenti tieghu ta’ Man u Giuseppe),  Charlotte Grech u Renato Dimech. Kollha taw sehem shih.  Kollha kienu bravi u haqqhom prosit kbir

 Bhal ma jixraqlu ukoll Joseph Farrell li ghamel it-traduzzjoni officjali. .

 

Joyce Guillaumier - It-Torca, 13/04/14

     


 

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