Patapumfete by Dario Fo. Performed by Alfredo Colombaioni and Stefano Di Pietro.Canberra National Multicultural Festival at ANU Arts Centre March 4-5, 1999.
"If they had combined it with something to eat and drink, I think more would have turned up," said one of the seven members of the audience on opening night. I guess there's an irony in that idea which Dario Fo would appreciate.
Colombaioni and Di Pietro are experts in Fo's style of theatre, combining circus clowning and modernised commedia dell'arte with social criticism - surrealist theatre for the working class. Clowns begin with improvised patter, bouncing banter back and forth. Once the audience has warmed to the satirical humour - I was accused as The Canberra Times critic of not doing my job properly because I my notebook was too small - several short humorous skits were performed, each with a twisted barb.
The least absurd was one character moralising at another who is pleasantly and harmlessly drinking wine and having an occasional quiet cigarette. It soon transpires that the accuser pops headache pills at the first sign of tension (most of which is caused by his moral concern at the other's behaviour). The accuser goes on to stronger drugs, finally stabbing himself with a huge syringe in all sorts of inappropriate places. He dies, while the drinker leaves him to his self-imposed fate and wanders happily away.
Non-violence and robot assembly lines receive a similarly ironic treatment.
A science fiction piece which starts with one actor as an alien machine while the other is proud to be the only human who can save the earth turned into a truly absurd clown style water squirting session, which seems to reach a point of reconciliation destroyed by one last squirted betrayal.
Spoken in Italian, with a minimal amount of translation into English, and mimed exquisitely, Fo's work makes its points and is a cultural artefact worthy of this Festival. But eating and drinking could have helped, like the lady said.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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