The ArtsEmail This Article Print This Article

The Futurist Synthetic Theatre 2015

Matthew Reza

Serata Futurista
The Oxford Italian Play
Burton Taylor Studio Oxford
10-14 March 2015

As we awaited our much prayed-for eighth week, we had stayed up all night, my friends and I, in anticipation of a Serata Futurista. I proclaim in the good faith of the company of actors I saw tonight that books and reviews are unnecessary. It is therefore with the most exquisite hypocrisy but also great pride that I pen these words on an evening that aimed itself squarely at the passéist theatre of monotony. To speak of its content requires, no, demands, a language of its fabrication and fashioning from a century ago.

You have objections? Enough! Enough!

The review begins.

KTATATATATA TROK – PLOK

THEATREGOERS USED TO A SLEEPY STAGE: this is not a play for the faint-hearted or the impassive voyeur of the boards, and our sign of applause rang out after we had been exhausted with such SPEED (of 58 minutes). For those for whom Italian is not so forthcoming, enticing and poetic English-language synopses are provided. Yet these do not detract from the exhilaration of the scenes before you. INDEED the Futurist message transcends such static and languid boundaries as language: actions and noises speak louder than (real) words.

zinz zinz dluinz pinnnzzz pinnzzz
pinnzzz
pinnzzz

Under the direction of the puppeteers Aldo Grassi Pucci and Michael Subialka, eight aspiring futuristi with great fervour, tenacity, chaos, and that most important tool of all, ITALIAN, regaled and captivated us, never leaving us a moment to breathe. Such was the velocity and ferocity of the performance that I almost fell off my chair. Recovering, I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass through my heart at what I beheld!

At the threshold we were told that the show would contain loud noises, simulated gunfire, a little bit of smoke and partial nudity. Such warning for our mental health and corporeal safety are of no importance. We cry out for ODD noises, STIMULATING gunfire, a desire for ALL to be tutto fumo, and IMPARTIAL nudity. We sing for no biased nudity.

And with joy we were met with SO MUCH MORE: broken and fragmented poetry, the discordant octaves of unbearable music, banana skins, passion, and most wonderful of all, a performance featuring WORDS IN FREEDOM. This climax rendered with colours, noises, and nonsense the pinnacle of the Futurist’s arresting attacks on syntax.

[I break free of the passionate extolment of this Serata Futurista for a moment of mad reason: seeing the truly iconic style of ‘words in freedom’ performed on stage is motive enough to see this play]

No fruit was thrown.

The whole event was Synthetic (very brief), Atechnical, Dynamic, Simultaneous, Autonomous, Alogical and Unreal.

[BUT THROUGHOUT THE PLAY LURKED THE SPECTRE OF COHERENCE: BY MEANS OF ABSURDITY AND THE PASSAGE OF TIME GLORIOUSLY ACCELERATED, WE SEE HINTS OF RECURRENT THEMES: SENTENCES WHICH GO NOWHERE, THE SUGGESTION OF UNFAITHFULNESS, DEATH, AND THE DECLAIMING OF THE MANIFESTOS OF FUTURISM]

TAM cò

TÈ TÒ LICÒ

TUIT TUAT TUE

Tiiiiiliutautautak taut

ALAS, there is too little space to mention all of what came before us tonight. Notable and extraordinary scenes included Becka Leigh delighting in a severed head as a fashion accessory; Alex Eperon’s Comical Chaos Created Coming on stage amidst of sea of nonsense; Anna Zanetti accusing an audience member in the most outrageous and shockingly splendid manner.

IN ALL THIS ENERGETIC FRENZY, MONICA BURNS AND KATHY MANIURA PROVIDE A MOMENT OF REFLECTIVE MUNDANITY AND EXCITING BOREDOM IN A PIECE AT WHICH BECKETT AND PINTER WOULD SMILE.

Jerome Foster’s agony of choice between suicide and reading the newspaper no doubt articulates a common pain we all face at the breakfast table.

tli tli uuuuu i i i i i i i i i

I MUST INTERRUPT MYSELF WITH A MOMENT OF DESPICABLE CLARITY, HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE, AND MEDIOCRE PEDESTRIAN COMMENT.

Most impressive of all was the view of Futurism as a historical artefact, and not as an iconoclastic movement which might be acceptable today. As Oli Kelly’s Marinetti asserts a Futurist love of danger and a claim to omnipresent speed, he is accompanied by his translator Chloé Delanney, whose initially compliant and nervous character becomes ever more incredulous and derisory of Marinetti’s hyperbole. Exploring the bellicose and violent rhetoric for which Futurism is infamous through an increasingly impatient and deploring female mediator, thus distinguishing between condoning the Futurist love of war and misogyny and allowing us to enjoy the art a century later, is a particularly clever touch. Special mention should be made of Oli Kelly’s performance, which is delivered with the conviction, noise, and most importantly, flamboyant energy characteristic of Marinetti himself. Jerome Foster also gives an impressive performance, all the more so as a debutant to the theatre.

With minimal props, simple lighting, and some clever curtains, a number of difficult effects were successfully brought from the page to the stage. The occasional infelicity with scene changes, lighting, or dropped lines only adds a complementary gloss to a style of art that is by its very nature chaotic and meant to challenge and undermine implicit expectations of what theatre should do. In this regard Serata Futurista is a powerful reminder of what radical art meant in 1915.

[THE AUDIENCE BATTLED WITH A DRAMATISATION OF DISCOVERIES: NOTHING IS BORING, MUCH IS AMUSING, AND MUCH INEXPLICABLY ABSURD]

Even if you have never heard of, or experienced, Futurism—its founder Marinetti would be spinning at 400rpm in the ditch into which he crashed his car if he heard such words—this is an excellent showcase for revolutionary Italian avant-garde art. Whether you wish to be amused, confused, or fancy an Italian language comprehension exercise of great complexity and depth, this is a rare opportunity to experience the movement which took the theatre world by storm a hundred years ago.

TRAIÒ TORIAAAAKRAKTO

Serata Futurista was victoriously imposed on a crowded Burton Taylor Studio in Oxford, and will continue such imposition nightly until 14 March.

Matthew Reza is Casual Lecturer and Italian Language Tutor at the Sub-Faculty of Italian, Oxford.