60 European citizens committed to creating theatre that proposes new storytelling experiences about the recent financial crisis.
ESPOSTI A TUTTO
By Rebecca Morris
ESPOSTI A TUTTO, roughly translating as ‘exposed to everything’, is an apt title for Tomaso Thellung’s vivid allegory of the rise and fall of a capitalist crisis set in an imaginary village.
The performance is introduced by Sifnos’s answer to the pied piper, Alfredo Angelici wielding his trumpet and accompanied by the talented Ruth Mariner who begins the show with a delicate rendition of Alan Rawsthorne’s Bagatelle No. 2 on the piano. Alfredo ’s character, something between a guardian angel and Shakespearean fool, begins the play by somehow making the audience culpable for what we are about to see. He points accusingly at latecomers and members of the audience, charming us to laughter as he tells us to look into the mirror – urging collective responsibility for belonging to what he refers to as ‘the system’.
Narrated by Alfredo, the story coaxes us away from the hustle and bustle of city dwellers – prima donnas on phones, prostitutes and priests. Swelling music, dramatic projections of post-apocalyptic imagery, a giant hand swooping in on the action creates a literal deus-ex-machina moment. Time stops and the sleepy village is awakened by colourful costumes, cartoon-like characters comically brought to life by the cast. Andrea Puglisi plays the hopeful entrepreneur Pepe, an unwitting perpetrator of the town’s collapse when he decides to open the town’s first bar, encouraged by his sweetheart – the vapid and captivating Carmela played by Valeria Iacampo. Each character plays his or her part in the eventual ruination and economic crisis of a town that had previously been run on the fundamental principles of collectivism and community.
There is Bianca Nappi, regal and pompous as the genial Mayor – eventually corrupted by the potential of stealing from her people and becoming rich. Antonella Britti who as the moralising and snooty Sister Alda is a symbol of the hypocrisy of the church – sermonising about morality whilst trading with the fat cats. Angelo Monacelli is Salvo, fat cat and village stockjobber, basking in his newly found status by playing village citizens off against each other, chewing on his cigar as he gets richer. Franca Abategiovanni is poor Anita, ruined and betrayed by the other villagers, losing all her capital on a half-baked dream of riding horses to the moon.
Throughout the performance, the fable is constantly interrupted and fractured by parallel worlds of nameless individuals and communities. These scenes use visual imagery and physical movement to connect with the idea of crisis – the boom and collapse of the economy on a universal scale. The action is cut through with videos of protests, footage of dictators and newspaper headlines. In one montage, Angelo plays a nameless man who takes and devours a large loaf of bread, using violence and physical prowess to keep other members of society from sharing it with him. Unable to defeat him; the people are cowed into begging, bowing their heads and reaching out their hands as he feeds them scraps.
As these nameless characters grapple with austerity, despondency, hunger and fractures in their society – all the symptoms of economic crisis – haunting images of landscapes and formless shapes are projected onto them, showing a world without humanity.
The piece ends in tranquility, then joy. The actors appear as angels on stage, looking around in wonderment as they are bathed in a white light. This is the first time they appear smiling and relaxed, turning into exhilaration as they invite audience members to dance with them in a final jubilant scene. Yet the theatricality of the joy in the final scene leaves us with the proposition that struggle and injustice can only be stopped in the afterlife. In the world as we know it, perhaps the idea that people’s suffering can be ended through smiling, dancing and the promise of heaven is as artificial as any theatrical device.