The artistic joint venture between CSS Teatro stabile di innovazione del Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy) and leading Italian actor Luigi Lo Cascio continues with another exciting new theatrical adventure on the stage, this time the production of La caccia.
The play is inspired by Euripides’ Bacchae and offers an inventive multimedia reinterpretation of the Greek classic. While the plot and the main themes of the work (the struggle between a ruler and a god and the conflicts between reason and instinct, duty and pleasure, and a society regulated by rules respected to allow civil co-existence and a community that is prey to passion) remain the same, the play re-examines them and takes a fresh look at their spirit and multiple meanings with a script employing a dynamic variety of expressive languages.
Since his return to the stage in 2005, following a long stream of films (including One Hundred Steps and The Best of Youth by Marco Tullio Giordana, Good Morning, Night by Marco Bellocchio, The Best Day of My Life and The Beast in the Heart by Cristina Comencini, and the recent Miracle at St. Anna by Spike Lee, Luigi Lo Cascio has embarked on a quest with a group of visual artists with whom he has chosen to share his new theatre shows.
La caccia combines traditional drama enacted on the stage by Luigi Lo Cascio with an interwoven fabric of contributions featuring images from cartoon films, electronic sound and video art. The result of this orchestration of different languages is a project devised and developed by various people, with Luigi Lo Cascio as playwright, actor and director, Nicola Console as set designer and artist, Alice Mangano for video art design, Desideria Rayner for sound and video editing and Stefano Mazzanti for lighting design.
Although we see only Lo Cascio on the stage, there is also another protagonist who appears exclusively in video, Pietro Rosa, a 13-year-old boy in a surprise role that will be revealed during the show.
“From a narrative point of view," Lo Cascio explains, “La caccia focuses on the experience of King Pentheus of Thebes, the authoritarian ruler who initially attempts to use his power to banish a god, Dionysus, from the city. However, the elusive, ambiguous presence of the god's shadow will reveal the full extent of his deadly cruelty in a relentless manhunt. The god will cloud Pentheus’ mental faculties, making him docile and defenceless before leading him to his defeat. The events on the stage are a direct projection of the confused turmoil that has seized the tyrant’s mind. The other characters of The Bacchae – Cadmus, the founder of Thebes; the priest Tiresias; and the women of Thebes who had fled to Mount Cithaeron to join the god's followers – appear in the form of a hallucination, like an enemy wreaking havoc from within. By conveying the anguish rendered invisible by the messengers’ narration and exposing Pentheus’ inner experience, we can witness the reversal that transforms the king from hunter to hunted, from the keeper of civic order to a mauled body torn to meaningless pieces.”
La caccia is an attempted variation on one of the many motifs that compose Euripides’ Bacchae. The playwright chose this theme not only because the activity and the metaphor of the hunt are prominent features of the text alluding to the mechanism of the confrontation between persecutor and prey and the tragic reversal in the power relations between the two figures (one of Dionysus’ countless names is Zagreus, in the sense of Bacchus the Hunter), but also because the concept of the hunt immediately conjures up the practices that are deployed to circumscribe the enigma of this tragedy. Indeed, the hunt represents the desire to surround, run to ground and capture the quintessentially elusive figure: Dionysus, with his ambiguous traits of joyfulness and annihilation. The difficulties and contradictions encountered in the attempt to strike home once and for all will not be concealed. Dionysus, who will not let himself be caught, does not actually appear on the stage. We will deduce the action from the effects that it produces on Pentheus in particular, who initially opposed the god, only to be subsequently ensnared by the same elusive substance that had so disturbed him.
Dionysus will also be hunted in another sense by a character who will appear several times during the show: a scholar of the Hellenic world. His method of capturing the essence of the text is based on promises of clarification derived from critical stratagems and the application of expedients associated with the science of knowledge to mythological material.
However, that is not to say that matter will be examined exclusively through the albeit highly enthralling web of concepts that crowd the pages of the commentaries.
Dionysus does not appear, showing himself to neither his followers nor his adversaries. Even his store of emblems and attributes risks surviving only in the degraded register of the fetish, commodity or seductive image that creates an illusion of complete gratification merely for a few fleeting moments. And so the classical Greek choruses are replaced by small-time chorales. The voice of the community that comes together to solve a problem, enforce a rule or propose a shared ethic, is replaced by an impersonal and lethal warning that is passed on and breaks down the narration to impose an object of consumption.
Pentheus is tormented by an unremitting desire to see the women dancing on Mount Cithaeron. The subjective viewpoint allows us to follow the stages in the blurring and distortion of his sight ensuing from the yearning that drives him to watch the Bacchantes at close quarters. The projected images thus highlight the reality of those visual dysfunctions (vertigo, hallucinations, doubling, blurring) that we might otherwise consider mere suggestions without a purpose. Finally, Pentheus’ perceptive faculties will be completely compromised at the moment in which the roles are reversed, from the hunter watching to the prey being watched.
Luigi Lo Cascio