Scene beasts (Bestie di scena), conceived and directed by Emma Dante, is a drama hosted by the Piccolo Teatro Strehler of Milan until 19th March that, in a bit more than one hour, succeeds on provoke the most diverse reactions on the audience.
The humanity fleeing with no way out – as the same Emma Dante describes the role of her actors – is a source of big turmoil or exaltation that, however, does not exclude a certain anxiety
Since its entrance in the theatre, the audience finds actors already on the stage focused on a number of exercises requiring energy and concentration. It takes to naively suppose that only a casualty led them on the scene before the real start of the show: a sort of divertissement for the spectators’ eyes that, while they chat looking for their place and sit, in this way are allowed to become voyeurs of a rite that is usually hidden behind the scene. Still, rhythm and accuracy of their movements and the coordination of the group let you intend that it is something more than simple relaxation exercises. Furthermore, the lights are kept turned on, so that to provoke a sense of incertitude and wait.
Through a progressive blackening, the light dies only when all the actors are finally, dramatically, naked in front of the plurality of peering eyes. No word has been said until this moment, no word – crucial, meaningful, explicatory – will be said in the following hour.
It is clear, then, that the show has started before than dark did. But how long before? And how long does everyone need to realise it?
From the outset, Emma Dante slaps the spectator and the traditional idea of theatre by making the best out of an unconventional and symbolic overture: as the actor acts and lives on the stage and use some time to realise his nudity that he immediately tries to cover, so we act and live and use some time before succeeding on bringing into focus the human condition in which we are caged and from which we cannot escape. ”Primitive beings, lost, fragile, a group of dummies”, here is what actors are and here is what we are as well. If “scene beasts” deceive themselves of living, let things influence them, obey to others’ decisions and are alienated from everything, preys of dances, screams and fights, we find ourselves exactly in the same situation with a unique difference: there is no stage here, only everyday life. The viewer, then, is constantly and necessarily called into question, both because it is all also about him and because his sight establishes the value of what happens on the scene.
The man reduced to a monkey that spits peanuts on the audience, a dehumanized woman in a talking (nevertheless non-communicating!) doll automatism, a man submissive to the will of a shade he is holding, a woman petrified only capable of pointing the source of her disturbance. These are some examples of the semantic complexity of every single gesture that takes place on the stage.
Therefore, the eye of the audience finds its own duty on the interpretation of our nature and, to do it seriously, it cannot avoid the confrontation with that nudity that generates repulsion, shame, embarrassment. These feelings get out in a laugh take to be exorcised, a laugh that, in my opinion, is hysteric and undue. In Scene Beasts there is no comedy.
On the contrary, a powerful tragedy invades the whole hall through cries, laments, incomprehensible arguments. The space of the word, unable of wholly explain the human fragility, meaninglessness, misery, is assigned to bodies, to their efforts and nudity. On the one hand, it is literal: on the black background, flesh and bones move radically or cautiously wait for what will happen. On the other, it is metaphorical: it is not an instantaneous, erotic, pornographic and far nudity, but long lasting, concrete, sincere, suffered as to say “this is what remains if we cleanse ourselves of all”.
What remains is the human condition as corruptible, weak and painful surviving, and Emma Dante search without providing personal purpose of certainties, answers or absolute truths.
The “dummies” are, at the end of the show, “dummies” – conscious for they discover to be, each one in his own way, automatons, psychos, sinners, beasts. Most of all, they find out that their nudity, actually, has always been with them and consequently there is no more any reason for hide it and try to escape.
It is the suffering self-affirmation in a reality that has nothing Eden-like and that, henceforth disillusioned by the impossibility of changing it, we, resolutely, accept.