Romeo CastellucciSocietas Raffaello Sanzio
Spill Festival 2009
at Barbican Theatre
The work of Romeo Castellucci and Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio is considered by artists and audiences worldwide to be highly influential in contemporary performance. Having created a new non-narrative theatre, a visual language that directly challenges traditional forms, Castellucci’s visionary work is uncompromising and always surprising. Making impressive large-scale work that questions our entire human condition, Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso has a company of over 60.
Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio has previously been presented in London as part of LIFT; Tragedia Endogonidia at Laban (2004), Genesi at Sadler’s Wells (2001) and Giulio Cesare at Southbank Centre (1999), also at Battersea Arts Centre withBuchettino (2001).
Having been performed as part of the Festival D’Avignon 2008, this is the UK premiere of Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso (bite09 SPILL Festival of Performance) and one of the few opportunities to see the complete trilogy performed together.
"Inferno" with each of these digits displayed back-to-front
gatewaying out to us: it is us who are in this hell. each united
letter is spluttering white light and soundscape of electrical
shorting and buzzing is loud and abrasive.
throughout this piece the sound provides its centre moving
through dangerous electrical sounds and loud noises of
violence to choral sweetness.
one by one each of the "Inferno" units are removed leaving
only the framing " " which remain for the duration at each
side of the stage.
Romeo Castellucci comes on stage, announces who he is
and is dressed in protective soft armour as eight large
alsatian dogs are brought on and and chained across the
front of the stage. loud barking offstage and by the dogs
in front of us. one by one three dogs run on to the stage
an attack Romeo, holding on to him. we have to take the
image of aggression and animal attack while filtering out
the happy tail wagging by the dogs.
a large black cube slowing arrives in the centre of the stage,
a huge black sail billowing above it. the black drapes are
pulled up to reveal a cubed crèche of toddlers happily encased
Andy Warhol walks slowly on with a polaroid, takes a picture of
us, turns to look at the children, turns back to us and slowly
falls in on himself.
The children are re-covered and removed, a shiny skull is left
behind which Andy Warhol takes and places beneath a huge
mirrored swinging wall, which lowers slowly on to break it like
A boy with a basketball, each bounce amplified to terrifying
sounds, a sense of something else behind him
A great sea of people with their different coloured clothes
slowly pout across the stage, fall down and wash as one
mass backwards while differently aged individuals step
forward to hold the ball replacing the boy at the front. the
final older woman appears to greedily eat the ball
accompanied by sickening sounds of gluttonous eating.
And so it drifts through a series of images, always slowed
and certain and seemingly endless:
a series of loving tableaux replaced later by a series of
mimed throat slashings, the slow climb one by one on to
the returned black cube, then the arms spread wide in
some sort of universal supplication only to fall backwards,
again and again, backgrounded by a projected list of
Andy Warhol's works with their dates, a back projection
of the names of deceased members of Societas that
seemed sentimentally discordant with the rest of the piece,
a grand piano is set alight and we watch it burn
a white horse the arrives as the sea of people are rewound
slowly back from whence they came to then be poured
over with vivid red blood.
and then the return of Andy Warhol to take another
polaroid of us and then to disappear into the wreck of
a smashed car.
somehow while it is all interesting enough the
accumulative effect is of a scenographic hypermarket
with the chance to view what's hot in this season's range
- a bit too look at me look at me. but a treat for all
that to get theatre this different from our more
usual literary plays...
after a long queue we are let in to the space to see a huge
dazzlingly white cube structure, a small entrance in one
corner into another smaller white light cubed space,
around black hole entrance into darkness. inside this final
space is first the sound of falling water and as eyes adjust
we can see we are in a larger black space with a waterfall
cascading down the back wall. there are other sounds too
and looking up we see the naked upper torso of a man at
the top of the waterfall apparently struggling - to free
himself? to communicate? - evidently unhappy and caught
in this perpetuity, and yet dangerously precarious suspended
above this black waterfall: misery in his stuckedness but were
he to get himself free the drop would destroy him.
this is an apparently small piece but absolutely perfectly formed
- the fusion of image and sound burn a permanent imprint so
that - unusually for me - i can still easily re-summon up the
remembered pictures days afterwards. this is a vision of life
ever after that is oppressive in its small stuck foreverness,
somehow all the more plausible for its absence of fire and
brimstone or colour and movement. a superbly realised perhaps
even heightened by our having to make a special trip to the
barbican and queue for some time for this 5minute moment.