Progressive director presents Dante in the 21st century

He is tall, slim, wears thick red-framed glasses, has six children that are all studying ancient Greek and Latin, his association with ancient Greek drama is not museum-minded and he considers «The Oresteia» to be «the masterpiece of humanity.» «Nothing is more beautiful, more frightening, or more powerful,» commented Romeo Castellucci, the iconoclastic Italian director whose participation in this summer’s festival agenda is a standout feature. Bringing his work to Greek audiences for the first time, Castellucci’s trilogy «Hell, Purgatory and Heaven,» freely inspired by Dante’s «Divine Comedy,» opens this year’s Athens Festival. The trilogy will be staged at two venues, Pireos 260 and the Athens Concert Hall. Castellucci’s groundbreaking theatrical group, Societas Raffaello Sanzio, based in his hometown of Cesena, close to Bologna, owes its international reputation to its manipulation of conventional ways and continual exploration of form. Castellucci’s team champions the bodily element and digs deep into the visual aspect. Before emerging as a director in 1981, he had thought about becoming a farmer. «The truth is that I was interested in animals,» recalled Castellucci, who ended up studying fine arts. He talks in a calm, steady and focused manner, even when addressing his trilogy’s «Hell,» for which he «worked with the sounds of the human body,» which he recorded during an autopsy. He described the result as «very sweet… a very melancholy music… There’s nothing freaky about it.» The director says it is not his intention to reinterpret Dante. «Dante’s poetry is not theatrical material, so it is transposed in the form of movement and images. This work is impossible to present because the concept is to imagine something that you cannot see,» said Castellucci. «How do you confront, for example, God or absolute evil?» he asks. In «Hell,» the trilogy’s first part (Pireos 260, June 1-3), Castellucci makes the audience, himself included, the performance’s main feature, as a faceless mass that observes and is observed. In part two, «Purgatory» (Athens Concert Hall, June 8 and 9), the action is set inside a luxury home where all seems to be in perfect order and harmony. However, the relationship between Father, the creator, and Son goes through conflict before it settles. The application of film techniques and psychedelic imagery alter the stage settings for impressions that stand somewhere between reality and dreams. In «Paradise» (Pireos 260, June 6), «the problem is light. It’s so white that it ends up being blinding.» According to Castellucci, Dante’s journey toward light is esoteric, a process whose responsibility is solely individual.