Loosely inspired by Dante's "The Divine Comedy"

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The 2008 archive

Romeo Castellucci

Cesena / Created in 2008

Romeo Castellucci offers the spectator, in three stages and at three venues of the Festival, a crossing, the experience of a Divine Comedy.

Purgatorio, Romeo Castellucci, 2008 © Christophe Raynaud de Lage


La Divina Commedia
If The Divine Comedy is a text that has accompanied Romeo Castellucci since his adolescence, he does not show a literal “adaptation” of it. His work is inspired by this text, as he writes in his working notes: “Read, reread, dilate, hammer at and study in depth The Divine Comedy so that it can be forgotten. Absorb it through the epidermis. Let it dry on me like a wet shirt”. But he especially aims at “becoming” Dante: “In this sense, being Dante. Taking on his behaviour as the start of a journey to the unknown.” The Divine Comedy is a sacred poem by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), comprised of three parts, Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise), each composed of 33 canti plus an introductory canto. In all, there are 100 canti, nearly 150,000 verses, written between 1307 and 1319 when, at the end of his life, Dante finished his work, both relieved and melancholic. The Divine Comedy was composed at the same time as the installation of the papacy in Avignon and therefore as the construction of the first Popes' Palace. The Divine Comedy is more than a literary monument for Western culture: it is a reference. Even for those who have never read it, this text makes sense and seems like a mythic country in which you visit the underworld dreading its punishments, in which you go through paradise hoping for its joys. Many writers and artists have been fascinated by this text, its images, visions, hallucinations, the breadth of its registers (amorous, mystical, erudite, allegorical, political, poetical...) and many have wanted to translate it to better assimilate its treasures (Dumas, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Nerval, Lautréamont, to mention just a few). Romeo Castellucci attempts to “hurl down The Divine Comedy on the earth of a stage”. He offers the spectator, in three stages and at three venues of the Festival, a crossing, the experience of a Divine Comedy.

The man who goes through purgatory – the “song of the earth” – is a curious being, constantly stopped by the concrete nature of the things and objects that surround him, in a depiction of his own life. This material occupies him, blocks his way, attaches him and often torments him. It bears witness to what exactly purgatory is to Romeo Castellucci: human life in its daily repetition, familiarity with everyday tasks, the trap of routine, the experience of the ordinary body, encounters with the finished world, known nature, the substances of life. He knows that he is condemned to wander there, among reality, represented both without distance, abstractly, and hyper-realistically, “a reality without a shadow” says the director, who has engaged himself in a major work on evolving forms. Punishment, here, is just living, experiencing the world. This Purgatorio is therefore more than a show because it is also the occasion, for the spectator, for an experience that Romeo Castellucci considers very valuable: finding oneself, suddenly, on the other side of stagecraft, behind the performance. As if each individual could attend the projected show of his own life, but a primitive one, sent back to the earliest times, those of origins and birth. This suddenly offered lucidity, like an experience of a return to vision within contemporary nature, a return to sensation in the midst of a modern city, isn't it even more terrible? It is an existential anguish that springs up from this show, as if sensations and the body were dissolving in matter.


Mise en scène, scénographie, lumières et costumes Romeo Castellucci
Musique originale Scott Gibbons
Chorégraphie Cindy Van Acker, Romeo Castellucci
Collaboration et architecture de la scénographie Giacomo Strada
Images ZAPRUDERfilmmakersgroup
Sculptures en scène Istvan Zimmermann, Giovanna Amoroso
Automates Giuseppe Contini
Réalisation des costumes Gabriella Battistini
Avec Irena Radmanovic, Juri Roverato, Davide Savorani, Sergio Scarlatella, Pier Paolo Zimmermann
Production Gilda Biasini, Benedetta Briglia, Cosetta Nicolini


Production de la Trilogie Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, Festival d'Avignon, Le Maillon-Théâtre de Strasbourg, Théâtre Auditorium de Poitiers - Scène nationale, Opéra de Dijon, barbicanbite09 (Londres)dans le cadre: du Spill Festival 2009, de Singel (Anvers), Kunstenfestivaldesarts /La Monnaie (Bruxelles), Festival d'Athènes, UCLA Live (Los Angeles), Napoli Teatro Festival Italia, Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione (Modène), La Bâtie-Festival de Genève, Nam June Paik Art Center /Gyeonggi-do (Corée), Vilnius Capitale européenne de la Culture 09, “Sirenos”–Festival international de théâtre de Vilnius, Cankarjev dom (Ljubljana), F/T 09 –Tokyo International Arts Festival
Avec le soutien du ministère italien du Patrimoine et des Activités culturelles, de la Région Émilie-Romagne et de la Ville de Cesena avec l'aide du programme Culture (2007-2013) de l'Union européenne
Remerciements à Comune di Senigallia-Assessorato alla Cultura / AMAT

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