Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SEVEN DEADLY SINS - La Biennale's 41st Venice International Theater Festival

The Holy Gangster by Jan Fabre
Venue: Ateneo Veneto Aula Magna
Photo: La Biennale
(Venice, Italy) The 41st Venice International Theater Festival, directed by Alex Rigola and chaired by Paolo Baratta, ended on Sunday, October 16, 2011. More than 5,000 people from all over the world were in attendance -- double the last time the festival was held in 2009. Every performance was sold outA total of 40 events were packed into powerful week. In addition to the theatrical productions, an intense week of workshops, conferences, laboratories, and conversations introduced international masters of theater to students from around the globe. 

The festival concluded with a topic of endless fascination, The Seven Deadly Sins. From Biennale:

Envidia by Calixto Bieito
Venue: Teatro La Fenice Sala Rossi
Photo at La Biennale
The 41st International Theatre Festival started from here, with the idea by Director Àlex Rigola to invite seven artists who represent the most powerful and poetically extreme experiences on the international scene, and ask them to develop a personal and contemporary vision of the seven deadly sins. And to Venice they came: Ricardo Bartís (Argentina), Calixto Bieito (Spain), Romeo Castellucci (Italy), Jan Fabre (Belgium), Rodrigo García (Argentina), Jan Lauwers (Belgium), and Thomas Ostermeier (Germany) -- figures with their own unmistakable artistic approach, each different from the other, but each of them has reconsidered his way of doing theatre in radical terms, developing a new and original language. It is rare to see directors of this calibre working together on a single project in a shared effort to formulate and elaborate new hypotheses for interpreting the contemporary.

Attore, il tuo nome nonè esatto (Actor, Your Name is Not Correct) by Romeo Castelucci
Venue: Teatro La Fenice Sale Apollinee
Photo: La Biennale
From October 2010 to March 2011, the Seven Masters workshopped their Seven Deadly Sin projects with a group of selected actors. The final outcome was seven short pieces set in four of Venice's most riveting venues, rarely seen by the public: two spaces inside Venice's opera house, Teatro La Fenice -- the Sale Apollinee and Sala Rossi;  two spaces inside one of Venice's historic institutes of knowledge, the Ateneo Veneto -- Aula Magna and the Library; two spaces inside Venice's music conservatory, the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello -- the Concert Hall and Rehearsal Room; and one space inside the prestigious Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti (Veneto Institute of Science, Literature and Art) -- the Sala del Portego. This meant that we, the audience, had to move en masse throughout the center of Venice to four different venues -- just like a group from a cruise ship, only more funky and hip. The space in which each piece was set had enormous influence on the productions themselves. Some of the pieces worked; others did not.

For those of us who have forgotten, here is a checklist of the contemporary Seven Deadly Sins (also known as the Capital Vices, also known as the Cardinal Sins):

The Slow Lie by Jan Lauwers
Venue: Conservatorio B. Marcello Sala Concerti
Photo: La Biennale


We began the evening with Thomas Ostermeier's Death in Venice set in the Sala del Portego of the Istituto Veneto. Ostermeier, the head of the Schaubühne in Berlin, one of Germany’s leading theatre institutions, was awarded the Golden Lion this year, and his piece was one of the standouts. Using video, a piano and live actors, a narrator read a critical excerpt from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice in the German language as a chilling, understated dinner scene played out -- not only live in front of our eyes -- but simultaneously on an overhead screen... above our heads a raw, darker, more lustful version was projected... 

Death in Venice by Thomas Ostermeier
Venue: Istituto Veneto Sala del Portego
Photo: La Biennale
"...Fear was the beginning, fear and lust and a horrified curiosity of what would be coming. It was night, and his senses were listening intently because from away a commotion, a noise, a din approached: a rattling, a clashing, a muffled thunder, shrill cheers and a howling of an 'oo' sound, all mixed and sweetly drowned in a terrible way with deep-sounding and continual flute-playing, which cast an obtrusive spell on the entrails. And he saw a phrase, dark, but denoting what was coming: 'The alien God!'"

The Holy Gangster by Jan Fabre
Venue: Ateneo Veneto Aula Magna
Photo: La Biennale
The other standout was Jan Fabre's The Holy Gangster in the Aula Magna of the Ateneo Veneto. Men in drag and spiked heels posed seductively, leashed to chairs. Women dressed as men in suits were the aggressors. Outbursts of rage, outbursts of lust, outbursts of sloth, pride, envy, gluttony, and greed punctuated the performance; the tables turned and the aggressors became victims of torture. Fabre "views the gangster as an archetype, a mythical figure, a criminal whose place is outside society, yet he is sacred."

Earlier in the week I had a chance to stop by a conference where the designer Jim Clayburgh, one of the founders of the Wooster Group, the renowned experimental theater company in New York City, shared a glimpse into his creative process. He started with a funnel... upside down.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. This meant that we, the audience, had to move en masse throughout the center of Venice to four different venues -- just like a group from a cruise ship, only more funky and hip.