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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Tiziana Barbiero from Italy’s Teatro Tascabile Di Bergamo talks about the 10th Theatre Olympics

The Theatre Olympics is a celebratory meeting point for theatrical world; this year, the 10th Theatre Olympics, over 400 companies from 58 countries have been performing in Hungary, starting in April and running until Midsummer. Originally taking place in Greece in 1995, the event is theatrical gathering in the spirit of tradition, modernity, and the ancient Olympics.

Tiziana Barbiero from Italy’s Teatro Tascabile Di Bergamo talks about coming to Hungary after a long pandemic.

In 1977, Teatro Tascabile organised the “International Atelier on Group Theatre in Bergamo”. Eugenio Barba, who was the director of the Atelier, invited Asian dancers to Italy for the first time. There was Japanese No, Balinese dance and Kathakali theatre. For the Tascabile it was love at first sight. Since then, i.e. for 46 years now, each generation of TTB actors constantly studies and practices some discipline of classical Indian theatre (Bharata Natyam, Kathakali and Orissi) and every year we travel to India to study and update.

We are a group that straddles East and West, an Italian group belonging to the Third Theatre as Eugenio Barba defined it, a group that also does 'normal' performances, research theatre, contemporary theatre. But having met India has meant for us changing the very idea of theatre as we have always known and conceived it in the West. India has shown us techniques and ethics of the actor, dramaturgical and compositional techniques that were previously unthinkable, techniques and ethics that we can draw on to derive principles that are also useful for our performances and for our daily professional life, but above all has shown us a theatre, as G. Craig, 'that has aroused in us a nostalgia for what is not of this world'.

In 2018, Attila Vidnyánszky, the director of MITEM, came to our home in Bergamo to present his 'The Three Sisters'. On that occasion, we spoke to him about Kathakali theatre and he fell in love with it. Kathakali is the classical Indian theatre par excellence and is perhaps the most famous form of Indian theatre in the West. It is considered one of the finest and most complete styles of theatre in the world also because of the strictness and technical preparation of its actors.

In September 2019, we presented the premiere of our latest performance "The Yoricks Intermezzo comico" at our venue in Bergamo. The Yoricks is the last of a trilogy that has engaged us for over ten years, on the theme of the Dance Macabre, the famous wall paintings still present throughout Europe, which depict a band of skeletons who, playing and dancing, drag human beings, from all walks of life, into the grave. The Dance Macabre is an iconographic theme that deals with death in a tragicomic manner and is historically related to the great plague that raged across Europe in the 1300s. Well, it was the end of 2019, we presented our The Yoricks, a performance where a group of six clowns, six skeleton-monks, gather together with angels, lions and horses to turn death into a surreal circus. Five months later Bergamo was the epicentre of the Covid pandemic in Italy. A prophecy?

For more than two years we decided not to re-propose the performance. We felt it was a form of respect towards our city, because in Bergamo death entered every home and affected every family. We too lost many friends.

During the pandemic period, we chose, in spite of many requests, not to perform online theatre. We preferred to wait, to concentrate on our training and on our new theatre, which was under renovation at the time. This is because we profoundly believe that theatre is synonymous with the relationship between actor and spectator. A relationship that needs living bodies in dialogue. We are not interested in technology, except that which can be put at the service of theatre as a relationship between human beings in presence.

We have been able to stand still because we have been supported financially by both our city and the Italian State. All recognised theatres have been supported by the government. But the free lines, the groups that were not financed by the Italian State suffered. Some of them have closed.

In May 2023, finally in Budapest, we presented Stories from Mahabharata, a Full-night, an all-night performance in the truest tradition of Kathakali. There were sixteen actors including three from the Tascabile. One of them who has been working at TTB for almost thirty years will dance alongside Sadanam Krshnankutty, the greatest living Kathakali actor.

One of the myths that made us leave for India in 1978 was that of the Master. In those early years we met John Kalamandalam, then a young Kathakali actor who is now the director of the Kalatharangini Kathakali School. Since then Jhon Kalamandalam has been the Kahakali Master of our group. A collaboration and friendship that has lasted 45 years.

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