A radical approach to Dante

Tonight, we will find out what Romeo Castellucci means when he speaks of a hell with a human face. Audiences will see how hell, an enigmatic and unidentified space, is presented theatrically, with many people and with children playing an important part. Castellucci, the enfant terrible of Italian avant-garde theater, was inspired by Dante’s «Divine Comedy» and turned this landmark work – which he has described as the first work of art to have been created out of the imagination – into movement and images. The Greek Festival’s opening production at 260 Pireos, which harmoniously coexists with the tribute to poet Yiannis Ritsos, has received raving reviews abroad. Castellucci’s company, the Societas Raffaello Sanzio, presents a radical, expressionist and entirely anti-naturalistic theater, of which the sources of inspiration include renaissance painting and philosophy. Castellucci has said that the grandeur of the «Divine Comedy» is beyond the reach of even the most educated researchers and that it is totally pointless to try and describe the work in theatrical terms, which is why he decided that the best way to deal with the book was to close it. His first thought was to put himself into Dante’s shoes and picture Hell, Paradise and Purgatory. Castellucci explores the meaning of these three terms today and wonders whether constantly remaining spectators in our own lives is tantamount to condemnation in hell. His answer to those protesting against his approach, is that the «Divine Comedy» is not just a move toward Dante, but also against him. The production consists of three parts – they have different angles, but what they all have in common is images in conjunction with violence and truth as well as the representation of the strong and the weak. In «Hell» («Inferno»), Castellucci focuses on the masses; he has said that individuality has been incorporated in the faceless crowd. In «Purgatory» («Purgatorio»), the action is set in a luxurious home, where everything seems to be in complete order and harmony. But a violent event upsets the calm and brings to the surface the relationship between the father/creator and the son. The father’s dominance is juxtaposed with the son’s innocence, while cinema techniques and psychedelic imagery urge the audience to revoke the boundaries between dream and reality. «Paradise» («Paradiso») is a theatrical installation inundated by strong light, which makes it hard to see. The director has said that he plays with the concept of paralysis in front of god’s grandeur and turns the audience members from observers into objects of observation. The production’s music and sound have been carefully worked. For «Inferno,» Castellucci studied the sounds of the human body, which he recorded during an autopsy. In «Purgatorio» everything seems like a whisper and cinema techniques create the impression of an ever-present mumble. In «Paradiso» there is no music, just the sound of water. Castellucci does not believe in theater styles and teachers, but rather focuses on the audience, which he sees as a co-creator. He wants to attract his audience to a new experience. He does not want his spectators to be concentrated, he wants them to be active. «Inferno» opens tonight and will be staged to Wednesday at 260 Pireos; «Purgatory» will run June 8 and 9 at the Athens Concert Hall and «Paradiso» will run tomorrow to Sunday at garage D of the 160 Pireos venue.