Formed at Silvio D'Amico's Accademia Nazionale D'Arte Drammatica/Rome and at the New York University, Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, alias Ricci/Forte, studied dramatic writing with Edward Albee. They received various drama awards such as Premio Studio 12, Oddone Cappellino, Vallecorsi, Fondi-La Pastora, Hystrio and Gibellina-Salvo Randone.
Besides attending national Italian festivals like Romaeuropa, Garofano Verde, Castel dei Mondi, Festival delle Colline Torinesi, etc., Ricci/Forte participated in several international theatre festivals worldwide such as in France (Rouen/Scène Nationale Petit-Quevilly, Marseille/Festival Actoral, Nantes/Le Lieu Unique, Paris/La Ménagerie de Verre, Lyon/Europe&Cies, Vanves/Artdanthé, Bobigny/MC93-Festival Le Standard Idéal), Belgium/Trouble Les Halles de Schaerbeek, Croatia (Zagreb Queer+IKS), Slovenia/Mladi Levi, Romania/Underground, England/Lingering Whispers, Germany (Berlin/Glow, Wiesbaden/New Plays from Europe), USA/QNY International Arts Festival, Moldavia/BITEI, Switzerland/Luganoinscena, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Sarajevo/MESS, Visoko), Spain (Madrid/Escena Contemporanea, Murcia), Russia (Moscow/Territoria+NET), Turkey/New Text New Theatre, Portugal/Almada, Brasil/FILO.
The duo held workshops and master classes in Italy, Brussels, France, Turkey, Russia and Croatia. In 2014 they were designated Masters for the École de Maîtres.
Their work has also inspired other artists, e.g. Simon Delétang staged Macadamia Nut Brittle at the Espace Malraux Scène Nationale/Chambéry, Massimo Popolizio staged their Ploutos text (inspired by Aristophanes) at the Venice Theatre Biennale in 2009 and received the Award for Best Play criticism. Abbastarduna was staged by David Bobée Bernardine/Marseille. Finally, Troia’s Discount was put on stage in 2015 by Nenad Glaven at ZKM Theatre in Zagreb/Croatia.
Ricci/Forte’s creations include:
2006 Troia’s Discount
2007 MetamorpHotel and wunderkammer Soap
2008 100% Furioso
2009 Pinter’s Anatomy and Macadamia Nut Brittle
2010 Troilus vs. Cressida and Some Disordered Christmas Interior Geometries
2013 Still Life
2015 A Christmas Eve (their first opera staging at Teatro San Nicolo/Spoleto)
2016 PPP Ultimo Inventario Prima di Liquidazione (world premiere to be presented end of January 2016 at Teatro Palamostre/Udine)
Ricci/Forte’s work is supported by coproductions between Romaeuropa Festival, CSS Teatro stabile di innovazione del FVG, Festival delle Colline Torinesi and Central Fies.
“Ricci/Forte appeal directly to people's hearts”
“A very special, contested potion mixture”
Sergio Ariotti & Isabella Lagattolla:
“One cannot always stop at the same formulas”
Please scroll down in order to read the interviews.
Please see also the German version. Do not hesitate to send me your feedback. Thank you!
The Person behind the Mask
My very first encounter with Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte had come about in the most unlikely of places: in Chișinău, capital of the Republic of Moldavia – thus emphasising once more the international recognition of the Ricci/Forte performing arts ensemble. Troia's Discount was to be shown, but, due to an unexpected technical failure, it began with a two-hour delay. However, the audience waited patiently, as clocks tick differently in the country of Eastern Europe.
Despite everything, for me it was a theatrical experience unlike any other. I was astounded by the total dedication of the actors, at the same time being fascinated by the unusual scenes and surprising ideas that unfolded on stage. It was there that my exploration journey through Ricci/Forte’s universe began. If nothing else, it turned to being a trip into my innermost.
About a year later I happened to witness another story in Turin. Imitationofdeath was shown on the opening night of the Festival delle Colline Torinesi and provided for a full house at Fonderie Limone Moncalieri. Once more conflicting feelings arose within me and I felt getting addicted to the equally poetic and aggressive style the charismatic duo provide. Yes, I definitely had to find out more, “get to the bottom” of this fascination. The unexpected discovery of a workshop taking place the next day, was more than welcome and filled me with great joy. While bright and eager faces filled the court at the headquarters of the festival, Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte were preparing the broadcast of their short video clips. Nevertheless, it was not going to be a regular seminar. In fact, it was more like an intimate gathering of friends.
At first, I tried to hide behind my journalist profession. But then I met Gianni's severe gaze leaving me with little option. He summoned me and said: “You too, Irina. Sit down, select three objects from your handbag which are dear to you and tell us their story. These workshops are intended to bring out the real person behind the mask.” Like all other participants, I turned my purse upside down and emptied its contents, watching the other ones busily sorting out their belongings. Special stories started unfolding under the penetrating looks of both artists, enabling us all to find out more about each other, as Stefano was telling us that “each of our performances is more than just a show. It is a journey of a group of people.”
Since then I have travelled to various places and followed several of their performances. Ricci/Forte's efforts to revive the power of one's imagination are not in vain, at least that is the case for me. I can only invite you, dear reader, to “let your brain in the cloakroom, open your heart and enjoy the journey”, as theirs is an authentic theatrical experience at its best.
(Contribution to the 20th anniversary edition of the Festival delle Colline Torinesi - June 2015)
“Ricci/Forte appeal directly to people's hearts”
Rita Maffei is an Italian actress and director. She has been working since 1987 as an actress with Cesare Lievi, Elio De Capitani, Marco Baliani, Massimo Navone, Lorenzo Salveti, Andrea Taddei, Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessandro Marinuzzi, Antonio Syxty, Giardini Pensili, Giuliano Scabia, Gigi Dall'Aglio, Giuseppe Emiliani. She staged several performances in Italy and abroad (France, Belgium, England, Iran, India, USA), having always been devoted to contemporary drama. In 2016 she will produce a “train trip” in twelve episodes from Udine to Rome, similar to the journey undertaken by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1950. Rita Maffei has published books on theatre and won several awards. She has been the Italian responsible for the École des Maîtres from 1999-2003 and from 2006 until now. Since 2014 she is artistic adviser for the theatre division of the Mittelfest festival in Cividale del Friuli. She has been artistic director of the CSS Teatro stabile di innovazione del FVG since 1999, in the premises of which this interview was conducted.
Let's start with the very beginning. How was your first encounter with Ricci/Forte's theatre?
Rita Maffei: The first meeting took place in 2006. We had been organizing for many years the Candoni Prize for New Drama. Candoni was from the Italian region of Friuli. He was the first countryman who translated Ionesco and Beckett into Italian. At that time there was a theatre network in Italy. All seven theatre halls were working together for this award with the aim of creating a production of a text. Each theatre proposed an author. Antonio Calbi, then manager of the Teatro Eliseo (now head of the Teatro di Roma) suggested a text by Ricci/Forte, namely Troia's Discount. Thus, the artist duo came for the very first time to us, to Udine, to the Teatro San Giorgio. This is how we met Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte. Since then we have been passionately dedicated to their work and have followed them almost everywhere to see their performances. At the same time we have continued to invite them to Udine.
For example in 2009, when we dedicated the festival Living Things to Pinter. It was one year after the playwright's death. Several artists staged different texts of Pinter in all premises of the Teatro San Giorgio. There were performances everywhere: on the stage and beneath it, in the orchestra (the chairs had been removed), in the locker room, in the rehearsal room, even outside the theatre hall. For example in Victoria Station six people at a time were travelling in a British cab through the city. All shows were performed simultaneously. Ricci/Forte presented our first joint co-production, which was repeated several times a day for only three viewers at a time in the locker room. All artists worked directly on Pinter's texts, except for Ricci/Forte. They created their own interpretation, which they called Pinter's Anatomy. In 2012 we continued with our second co-production, Imitationofdeath. A year later we were hosts of Still Life. Thus, there was an ongoing getting to know each other. Our last co-production was Darling. Finally, the desire arose to appoint them in 2014 masters of the École des Maîtres.
How did the audience react in the beginning in Udine? And how has it developed over the years?
R.M.: The public is very impressed by Ricci/Forte. It has always been like that. I remember people leaving with tears in their eyes from Pinter's Anatomy. The spectators were strongly taken in by the performance. It was a staging with three performers for an audience made also of only three persons. This gave the impression that each performer acted for each viewer personally. It was love at first sight. Since then, there has always been a full house at any of Ricci/Forte's shows in the Teatro Palamostre in Udine. And the reaction is warm. Another reason might be that our audience loves this kind of performance. It is accustomed to contemporary theatre.
Why are Ricci/Forte important for the Italian theatre scene?
R.M.: I think there are several reasons for this. On the one hand there is the emotional aspect, i.e. the viewer is affected mainly through the impact of their soulful performances, which happens even before the spectator is able to process the staging through his intellectual filter. This is Ricci/Forte's most powerful “tool”. This element is on one side expressed through the topics to which they have firmly devoted themselves. These have a precise impact on the target audience. On the other hand, the use of the music plays a very important role. The selection of songs is extremely addictive. Many even say that it is a wise selection, as such that Ricci/Forte know how to use the music in order to touch a person's heart and soul. This musical component amplifies the emotional impact. What's more, they have managed like no other in Italy to win a very young audience for themselves.
This means they are unique.
R.M.: In my opinion, yes, they are unique. The young generation follows them everywhere. That is their winning feature, because the average age of the theatre goers in Italy is very high, whereas Ricci/Forte were able to reduce the average age significantly. Of course, the gender problem also plays an important part. Ricci/Forte have often shown performances like Still Life in Rome. Thus, the duo speaks directly to the target audience who loves them very much. But this is, in my opinion, an aspect that has more to do with marketing.
Then there are the profoundly poetic elements. These are definitely the most interesting ones. Ricci/Forte manage to create their own dramatic writing which aims directly to people's hearts. Despite its simplicity, it is very cultivated. That's a very important thing: this merger of an understandable language with refined themes. They even relate to aspects of everyday life which they pack in a very sophisticated cultural context. And that is for certain a winning combination.
Apart from the use of the music that I mentioned at the beginning, there is another item that belongs to their poetics: the physical theater strongly related to the “Body”. Actually, “Body” is not the right word. Some critics say that one can always see nude bodies on stage at the end of Ricci/Forte's performances. But there is never the naked body. It is merely the soul of the artist which is naked. This is the greatest strength of their shows. We have already seen nudity on stage in all versions. Who cares? Ricci/Forte manage to uncover the soul of the artist. All these components have created a special relationship between the audience and the artist ensemble, a kind of special loyalty. As I've already mentioned, fans follow the group everywhere.
Do you think the spectators perceive the nakedness of the soul?
R.M.: He who manages to figure out this aspect, loves Ricci/Forte deeply. Anyone who sees only the naked body, is not able to go beyond this.
This discovery is indeed like a slap in the face.
R.M.: In fact, paradoxically, they “beat” the audience. Many viewers do not accept this, because it is not easy. It really is as if you looked at yourself in the mirror. And that scares many off.
Let us now talk about the École des Maîtres.
R.M.: In 2014 Croatia was for the first time part of the project. Ricci/Forte have worked with five countries and, therefore, with a bigger number of performers. Instead of sixteen, there were four more actors, i.e. a total of twenty young participants.
Will the show continue to be presented?
R.M.: No. We do not even call it a show, only a public presentation, because the École des Maîtres works in the following way. It is a project with a high degree of specialization for European actors under 34 years old. Together with our partners, we take over the costs: the day and night rates, the travel expenses and the fees of the workshop with a master of the European theatre scene. Thus, the youngsters are not paid. The public presentation serves solely to create a relationship with the audience, to “open doors”. But we do not pay for the tickets and also do not take the show back on, because it wouldn't be fair to the young actors who do the job only as an educational experience. The project cannot be used in order to go on tour. It ends in the participating countries.
And how was Ricci/Forte's workshop in Udine?
R.M.: Actually, Udine is the annual seat of the first fifteen days. This is the most sensitive, but also the most fruitful period. During these a bit more than two weeks, a mutual understanding develops between both the young people as well as between them and the master. It is a very intense period. Ricci/Forte have never indulged in a single day off. It was incredible for how many hours a day they worked together: between ten and fourteen hours! This really was a full immersion. And it works in Udine, because it is a small town which has none or very little distractions to offer during the month of August. The city is also half empty, because many go to the beach. So the artists can concentrate on their work. The first two weeks are critical, because it is then that the relationship between the young actors and the masters is accomplished. 2014 was certainly one of the most intense years of all 24 representing the history of the École des Maîtres. The attitude of Ricci/Forte towards the way of working and the nature of their work, have created that intensity.
Leaving aside the fact that the analysis of Genet's topics was very personal. This was another case where the soul was exposed. In fact, a few actors have left. They did not make it, they couldn't accept the kind of work that was required from them. Let's take the scene of the “prayer” as an example. This is a beautiful and powerful moment, a clear proof of Ricci/Forte's work. Everything seems so authentic. Nothing is imitated. That's something in particular I'm very fond of about Ricci/Forte.
You don't find their kind of performers everywhere. How do you see the future of the artist ensemble?
R.M.: For me, Anna (Gualdo) is a heroine. She's a very professional actress, an artist of great skill. I do not want to exaggerate, but what Ricci/Forte demand, would be accepted by very few Italian actresses who have reached Anna's performing skills level. She is exceptionally generous, but her generosity is accompanied by an incredible professionalism. Such a combination is very rare to find. This energy and freedom of movement are perhaps normal for beginners, but they lack the experience. Anna, on the other hand, has both.
But you are also an actress!
R.M.: Yes, but I would never have the courage to do what Anna does.
R.M.: If there were only the physical acts, I would have no hesitation in doing them. But it is everything altogether. Anna has devoted her art and herself to Ricci/Forte. And she did it with a huge commitment and great driving force.
I would like to add something. Namely, the big step forward that Ricci/Forte have achieved with Darling, their latest production. It was strongly criticized by some, because they considered it less successful than the other productions. Thereby I am referring to the theatre critics. In my opinion, Ricci/Forte have proven a lot of courage with Darling. They were more radical than in their previous decisions and have managed to abandon the “mechanisms” that work well with their audience. And that's very difficult. They have analyzed their own theatre and have brought a lot of new elements. Their selection was amazing. Therefore, Darling is a profound and courageous performance. It is certainly more powerful and more difficult than their other shows.
Thank you for the interview!
translated from German by Irina Wolf
Udine, January 31st, 2015
“A very special, contested potion mixture”
Roman Dolzhanskiy was born in 1966 and studied at first at the State Instituteof Steel and Alloys in Moscow, before he took his degree in Theatre Studies at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS). Since 1995 he has been a reporter for the newspaper “Kommersant”, since 1998 artistic director of the festival “New European Theatre” (NET) in Moscow. Roman Dolzhanskiy was a jury membe rfor the"Golden Mask Award". In 2003 he was awarded the Chaika prize, whereas in 2004 he received the Alexander Kugler prize. Roman Dolzhanskiy is co-founder of the “Territoria” festival together with Evgeny Mironov, Kirill Serebrennikov and Andrey Urayev. This international, multicultural school festival was launched in 2006 with the support ofthe Russian Ministry of Culture and the Moscow city government. The programme consists of unique, cross-genre, modern and experimental performances.
How was your first encounter with Ricci/Forte? What struck you most when you first saw their performances?
Roman Dolzhanskiy: The idea was that I am always looking for shows for my festival (for Territoria) and for NET (New European Theatre, which I have been curating together with Marina Davidova for the last 15-16 years). I am also programmer for the Territoriafestival which deals more with worlds of several genres, of music and dance, and theatre together. We are exploring, not dividing the worlds. So I travel around and watch shows in order to bring them to Moscow. But Territoriais also a festival which offers a lot of workshops for students. Actually it's not a festival, it is a school festival. We bring young actors from all over Russia. They have ten days of very intense work. Students come from big cities like Novosibirsk, Ecaterinburg, Vladivostok, where they don't have so much of the world theatre, where they are taught sometimes in a very conservative manner, in the Stanislavski system. So the festival was invented for them, to open up, to show them that there isn't only Russian theatre, which is sometimes great, but sometimes awful, that this isn't the only form of theatre in the world. That there are different ways of doing theatre, especially now when it is so popular to mix genres: dance and drama theatre, dance and puppet theatre, cinema and so on.
So I always look for something which could be interesting not only in terms of productions, but also as a new system which can be taught to the students, which can be interesting from the point of view of teaching and learning. And I had heard about Ricci/Forte from one of my colleagues who lives in Italy and had seen one of their shows. But Ricci/Forte were completely unknown in Russia. And the Italians have a strange system. When you come, for instance, to Austria to a festival, you will see the Burgtheater. Of course interesting things do not only happen in the Burgtheater, but you are starting with the institutions. It doesn't mean that you won't find the most interesting things somewhere else. But the usual logic is that you go to the institutions.
But in Italy this is useless, because you will never go to see the Teatro Stabile. So you have to find a way round. Plus, the most interesting aspects in Italian theatre are to be found in the marginal, if we are talking about the establishment (even in the case of Romeo Castellucci, Pippo Delbono, Emma Dante and so on). All the interesting names are just somewhere else, not in the main square. You always have to ask people. This is what I did and many told me about Ricci/Forte. First, I saw their pictures and they seemed quite interesting. Maybe it was intuition, the pictures or some text I had read that determined me to go and see them. And when I went to Rome and saw two of their works (Grimmlessand Macadamia Nut Brittle) I understood that it is a must in the frame of Territoriafestival.
Sometimes I think that everything about contemporary theatre is about communication. Because this is one of the few ways of communicating about life and our world, in which we are now mere gadgets. And everything is spoiled. It is just the only way where you come together with other people and you communicate with them directly onstage. Because you know, sometimes we are sitting around the table and talking with each other and at same time we are playing with our mobile phone. It is crazy, but this is the world. That is why I think that all theatre now is about communication and how we communicate with the audience.
And I noticed that Ricci/Forte have a very special way of communication. Apart from the fact that it is a very special way of dealing with the classical culture, of a rare rediscovery of the classical plots, of the fairy tales as well. I think they also have a lot from the folklore, because everything they have done is a kind of fairy tale. A contemporary one acted by children who have grown up, but who are still children. And they see their audience as being grown-up children.
Actually I think one of their ideas is about going back to childhood.
R.D.: I agree, they are trying. I found the actors on the stage to be stressed, because they have grown up, but they are not ready for it.
What did you invite to Russia?
R.D.: I have chosen Grimmless for Territoria, because I thought that it was more soft. It was important, especially for the students, not to spoil the first contact with things which could be too radical, too foreign.
But Ricci/Forte are very radical. What was the perception in Russia?
R.D.: It was very good. It was so good that we invited them also to conduct a workshop. They have actually done a show in the Gogol Centre. The latter have an ensemble with a lot of young actors, so they are interested in inviting people who can show other ways of performing. So after Ricci/Forte had run their workshop for Territoria, they were invited to the Gogol Centre to make this show. It was work-in-progress, I would say. It was not a complete show. But it was quite amazing how they have done it in such a short time. Still, when I was watching the show with a cast of Russian actors I was missing the Italian actors.
R.D.: I think it is a kind of national specificity, openness and temperament. Ricci/Forte are very challenging, they ask very much and they need a certain degree of openness, the “irritation of emotions”. And Russian actors work quite differently. They were much heavier with them. What I was missing was the energy of their challenge.
Did the students who participated in the workshops open up?
R.D.: Yes, I think so. I can say that they opened up. Probably after the first encounter they were a little bit scared. You could feel it also in the show. But they were very devoted to the process and I think they were very open. But the “system” which Stefano and Gianni invented, is very much growing from the Italian division. They are very international of course, but they are very national at the same time. When I saw them working with Russians, I understood that they are not so much universal, they are growing from this Italian way of acting.
That is interesting, because Gianni now lives in Paris.
R.D.: Yes, I know. But for me they are an important part of Italy. The way of mixing up emotions, subconsciousness, openness, spontaneous reactions is very challenging for me. Perhaps I am wrong. I didn't see their other experiences with actors in different countries. But when they worked with the students in the festival (Territoria) it was completely amazing, because the students really opened themselves up. They were saying and doing so unexpectedly sincere things. For instance, one of the exercises was to embrace each other and to hear your partner's breath. They work with very intimate things and sometimes it breaks privacy. But this is theatre. In theatre people have to be ready to be naked on stage, I mean emotionally naked (and phisically as well). Ricci/Forte deal a lot with nakedness. This physical nakedness in their shows is, of course, another way of bringing the above mentioned emotional nakedness on the stage.
There are a lot of companies in Europe which are critical in social terms, in terms of subconsciousness, about Freudistic issues. Others are talking about eternal problems of culture, like Castellucci. But what I like in Ricci/Forte is their mixture, that they are socially very critical, but at the same time it is not the social theatre which usually becomes very boring after five minutes. You can see and you understand that what they are telling is important, they are really touching, sometimes they are very radical to the audience and they are trying to wake them up. We all know this kind of theatre. But sometimes you think the human dimension is missing.
And you find this in Ricci/Forte.
R.D.: Yes. It is a kind of applied art. They have their social aim, their social concern, but artistic as well. And how do they manage to be critical in a social sense? In a way they are very light. They are not heavy at all. So you are not depressed after their shows, although they are talking about death, about time, about existentialistic things: that people cannot meet each other, that life is dying, the body is dying, that we are wasting our time and “time is our main enemy”, as Stefano says. But the way it is done is very touching. You feel it with your heart, but you don't go out of the theatre hall with a dark feeling. Because Castellucci, for example, is very spectacular artistically, fantastic as pieces of contemporary art, but he is very depressing. Sometimes art has to destroy you, in order to reconstruct yourself. However, Ricci/Forte do not destroy. I value this very much. For me it is very important not to be “killed”, not to be “terrified” by the theatre. And this is also very important for the audience.
In Russia which is very critical in style and nakedness and not only, we did talk about politics before how did this integrate?
R.D.: We have to consider that they were invited to the theatre of the festival, so the audience was quite special. If they had been presented in a small town, in a small theatre far from Moscow, the audience would have probably been shocked. In Moscow, in this festival, the audience, the young people, are more or less used to see such things, because we also had invited quite a lot of famous artists, such as Castellucci, Alain Platel, Arpad Schilling, Rodrigo Garcia who are also very radical. I was not scared about the contents, in the festival context. And what they did in the Gogol Centre is actually theatre which deals with young audience. They did not really confront themselves with the conservative audience in Russia. I would say it was a kind of artificial work. Therefore, it was safe.
Because we talked about censorship.
R.D.: Well, yes. This was two and a half years ago. And then it was not so scary. This negative process has developed very fast during the last year. The main thing which I find very dangerous is aimed at bringing the people to self-censorship. It is not only the official censorship. The people themselves are starting to think in that direction. I myself feel unsure, because the festival is state-subsidized.
To tell you the truth, if I met Ricci/Forte now, I would be much more careful with choosing the show. We were thinking about Imitationofdeath, but for the moment, no. I would love to, because they are fantastic, both so different individuals and all their actors. As I have said, this is a very special kind of mixture of making contemporary theatre (movement, music, short, concentrated, spectacular, social and, in a way, it grows up inside you after it’s ended).
I have very good and warm memories about our cooperation, their show and workshops, and their acceptance. They are open, simple, they are not talking about high art, they are dealing with real life. Their theatre is on one hand artificial, i.e. it is a pretense not to be the real life. It's like an attraction, sometimes it is like cabaret, but at the same time they are dealing with real life. They have a simple language which is made from the same material life itself is made. What an interesting angle of viewing and what a potion, dealing with dark, dangerous and sad things, but mixed in such a way that when you drink it, you think it is a contested drink, that it is not from here, still it was prepared here. A very special “double feeling“.
This is a wonderful finish. Thank you very much for the interview!
Vienna, May 30th, 2015
“One cannot always stop at the same formulas”
Sergio Ariotti is the founder of the Festival delle Colline Torinesi, which he has been co-directing since 1996 together with Isabella Lagatolla, him as Artistic
Director, her as Organization and Communications Manager.
Sergio Ariotti is a graduate in Theatre History of the Turin University with a thesis on the Jacobean theatre in Italy (dissertation advisor Gian Renzo Morteo). After some teaching experience at the same university, Ariotti worked as actor, assistant stage director and stage director with public and private theatres. From 1979 until 1990 he was stage director at the RAI. Afterwards, he worked as journalist in the department of culture of the Telegiornale del Piemonte, where he was responsible for the theatre review section. Ariotti has producedwell well over a hundred investigative journalism, radio and television programs as writer and stage director. He has staged several plays. Ariotti is the author of quite a number of publications on theatre, cinema and contemporary art. Since 2000 he has been teaching the course of cinema history and cinema review at the Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale in Vercelli.
After having graduated in Modern Literature at the University of Turin, Isabella Lagatolla taught literature for a few years in Turin middle schools and high schools as well as in the province. Afterwards, she continued her training in Rome with a course for theatre organizers and administrators of the Ente Teatrale Italiano managed by Fulvio Fo. She has gathered much experience on working in organization and communication in the theatre branch. From 1987 until 1991 she was responsible for “Iniziative Speciali” in the Communication and Image Sector of the GFT Group. From 1998 until 2013 Lagatolla has collaborated with the Foundation of the Teatro Stabile of Turin in the areas of production and public relations. In 2008 and 2010 she was a member of the Jury of “Rigenerazione”, a project of the Turin Theatre System intended for young companies of the region. In 2012 she selected the theatre projects for the “bando Movin'up del Gai”, a circuit of young Italian artists. Finally, in 2013 she was part of the jury for the finals of the “Scenario” Award in Santarcangelo di Romagna.
Let's start from the very beginning. How did you discover Ricci/Forte?
Isabella Lagattolla: They were very young when they won a dramaturgy prize, the Oddone Cappellino Award organized by the Festival delle Colline Torinesi. Cappellino was a good author from Turin who died at the young age of 36 of a heart attack. Ricci/Forte won the award with L’acchiapatopi (The Rat Catcher).
This was in...?
I.L.: In 1998. One year before, they had presented another text: Aspettando Marcelo (Waiting for Marcello), which the jury liked very much. At that time being, I was the secretary of the jury, so I remember it very well. They were nominated among the finalists, but came in second. In 1998 they won the prize with The Rat Catcher. One year later, Waiting for Marcello was staged with actors of Turin. It was a fictional story about two people sitting on a bench. You didn’t understand if they were dead or alive, friends or strangers, if the belonged to the real world or were just fictional characters, because they spoke to each other and, in a way, didn’t speak at all. We staged it in the hills, on a true bench on the square of a village, under a castle, with the audience sitting all around. Waiting for Marcello was a beautiful text, surreal, confusing. You really didn’t understand who the characters were. And Ricci/Forte were very young. They weren't bald yet, both almost unrecognizable.
Afterwards we followed them for years, but they never came to the festival again, for various reasons, because they worked elsewhere. After a long time they participated in a festival of the Teatro Stabile called Perspective. With Macadamia. There we met each other again. It was then that they said: “You have been those who have discovered us in a way and we do not come to your festival?” So they came with Pinter's Anatomy.
What struck you first at Ricci/Forte?
I.L.: Certainly the writing because we firstly read their texts, which were quite different from the ones they write nowadays. They were surreal, confusing. It was only after we had seen Macadamia that we discovered the mise-en-scène, which plays an important part. So we proposed Pinter's Anatomy for the foyer of the Small Hall of the Cavallerizza. But then Ricci/Forte asked us: “Why don't you become our co-producers?” So we started co-producing all their recent performances. We also hosted Still Life, which wasn't one of our co-productions. For the last four years they have been coming to us. Pinter's, Imitationofdeath, Still Life, Darling - each of their latest performances. I would love to show Wunderkammer, but it takes seven different spaces.
And their last performance, Darling, is it special, is it different?
Sergio Ariotti: We have seen the premiere in Rome and were very surprised, because it seemed to be an alternative of their traditional way of doing theatre, which is similar to Artaud's, bursting with energy, made of very specific themes...
I.L.: Very strong themes...
S.A.: ...Yes, such as death, homosexuality. While Darling seemed, and seems, more correlated to another kind of dramatic art, in this case to the story of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon - to classical themes. It seemed to us to be an interesting choice. But I'm still torn apart between the theatre they did before and this, the new one, because I think it's only the beginning of a journey. This relationship to another dramaturgy, which is not theirs, of which they are not the authors, is not yet completely solved. But it's a good sign, a beginning. We also liked the fact that there was an important stage setting. This green container which is entirely dismantled into pieces, which looks like a torn conscience.
Is it for the first time that they use a set design?
I.L.: Maybe. I would have liked them to have a meeting with stage designers and with one from Turin in particular, but also with sound designers. Because in my opinion Ricci/Forte should surround themselves with collaborators and try to do a project together. Both of them are very good, but up to now just the two of them did the whole work.
S.A.: Among other things, they have a great ability to communicate their ideas and to encourage others to work. Thus, it wouldn't be bad if they would work with important collaborators. Now the time has come. They aren't kids anymore.
I.L.: It's time to improve the quality. Now they want to work on other texts. They have two new projects on texts which are not their own.
Let's talk also about their performers. Giuseppe Sartori and Anna Gualdo were with Ricci/Forte from the very beginning.
I.L.: Sometimes also Liliana Laera.
S.A.: Others have come and gone.
Yes, that's true. But all of them are young, because there is a specific vigour required. This type of actor is very special. How do you see the future of the company?
S.A.: Anna has worked with Ronconi. Therefore, she has a background of traditional theatre.
I.L.: Anna is their female figure of reference. It is not easy to find actresses who are able to perform in Ricci/Forte's kind of theatre, which is very physical. I am thinking of Silvia Calderoni, the actress of Motus – she might be a possible choice. It is hard to find Italian actresses prepared in this direction. Anna really is an exception, because the actresses either recite and sing, recite, sing a little and dance a little. But it isn't easy to use the body in the way Anna uses it, with so much physical effort.
S.A.: I think it's also a male point of view, theirs a very masculine one.
I.L.: Yes. But it is also a problem of education. Our schools do not prepare the physical work as such.
S.A.: While, for example, Ricci/Forte had a great time working in Russia, because the actors were willing to use their body in this way, but also had a clear pronunciation. They were also very good in reciting.
I.L.: Yes, Russian actors are extraordinary.
S.A.: Because in Italy, ultimately, there is a kind of “faulty” boundary between, on the one hand, let's say, a more traditional, more academic theatre – with actors who play well – and, on the other hand, a more experimental theatre, dedicated to research, in which the actors move well. It is most unlikely that the two theatre types are intermingled. Everybody was surprised when Umberto Orsini worked with Pippo Delbono, because he crossed the border. Orsini is one of the most renowned Italian actors of classical theatre, a “fine Speaker”, as we say in Italy. I believe that Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte are able to prevail upon more actors and actresses to cross this border, including upon actresses, but they have to try.
I.L.: You said an eminent name.
S.A.: Yes, Umberto Orsini is like an actor of the Burgtheater, an actor of the academy.
I.L.: Beautiful, fascinating, even in his 80s, with a wonderful deep voice. He was engaged to one of the Kessler twins. Umberto loves challenges.
I.L.: The actors of Ricci/Forte are not taught to be actors. They often come from laboratories and are then integrated. Like Silvia Calderoni, Motus' actress.
S.A.: Or the actress of Fibre Parallele, Licia Lanera. She didn't come from school, but from practical theatre. I think that theyare among the few Italian artists who can reconcile these two directions.
I.L.: It would be nice if Ricci/Forte started working with other actors, to see what they would be able to do.
S.A.: They write well and know how to manage the actors well.
I.L.: They have an overall vision. It would be great if they took up the challenge of working with young Italian actors, because you are right in saying they aggregate international young artists. They direct the École des Maîtres and selected between the participants.
S.A.: And Darling can be a sign of a new direction. Also a dangerous one, because there are quite a few who have criticized the choice of Darling, going off their preponderance of body usage, of physicality, in order to tackle texts which are not their own. But it's a nice challenge.
I.L.: There are also those who liked the show very much, because it is a stronger “démarche” than the previous one, moving from their own text to a revisited classical one.
In fact, the critics' voices are divided. How about the public, for example the public in Turin?
S.A. and I.L.: The public is also divided.
How has the relationship with the public developed from the very beginning, since you have brought Ricci/Forte to Turin?
I.L.: In Italy they have always had fans who have followed them everywhere. Then it depends on the subjects. For example, Still Life tackled important topics, very strong social themes, which created a crazy consensus. As for Darling, the audience is much more divided, because it came expecting another Still Life, another Imitationofdeath. And it found something different, albeit with a slower pace than the speed of their other shows.
S.A.: So to speak, because they make a hell of a noise.
I.L.: Quieter in Ricci/Forte's style! Therefore, the public was even a little bit at a loss. Quite a few said: “Yes, it's not bad.” But something seemed to be missing. Personally, I liked the fact that Ricci/Forte brought themselves into play and have tried to change. This is very important for an artist. You cannot always stay true to your clichés and keep repeating the same mise-en-scène.
Show the public what they like.
S.A.: Yes, then above all I think - as Ricci/Forte have also said - that one cannot always stop at the same formulas. I remember something I read recently about Duchamp, who said: “Ah, it's easy for the artists. They find a formula and then repeat it indefinitely, because the critics and the public ask for that. No. Rather, we must stop, as I did, and then start all over again.”
As Ricci/Forte did with Darling.
I.L.: Exactly. In my opinion, this is why Darling is important, because it is a rebirth.
translated from Italian by Irina Wolf
Turin, June 10, 2015