Tue,Nov 5,2013

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Vatican denies scuppering Nobel Laureate Fo's show

By Denis Greenan (ANSA.IT)    16:53, November 05, 2013
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Vatican City, November 1 - The Vatican on Friday denied scuppering a show by iconoclastic leftist Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo in honour of his late wife Franca Rame in a theatre close to St Peter's.

"We knew nothing about it," Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told ANSA.

He accused the Italian media of exploiting the case "to bring the Vatican and the pope into it in an incorrect and even instrumental way".

"It's better the show does not go on at the Auditorium," Lombardi said.

The Auditorium management denied reneging on an agreement to stage the event.

"It isn't true that we said Yes and then No," said managing director Valerio Toniolo.

"We never confirmed it...we made some artistic decisions, as we are entitled to, and decided it wasn't for us," he said.

"How can Fo talk about censorship when he's been here many times in the past"?, Toniolo asked.

Fo called the Vatican denial "typical of the way Italian politics has operated over the last 50 years, saying I didn't know anything, I wasn't there and if I was there I was asleep".

Fo claimed Thursday the Vatican had stepped in to stop the show featuring a playlet, Fleeing The Senate, written by long-time former creative and stage partner Rame.

The show, highlighting Rame's disenchantment with politics after a 19-month spell in the Upper House for an anti-Berlusconi party from early 2006 to late 2007, was expected to open shortly at the Auditorium Conciliazione, a theatre on the avenue leading up to St Peter's.

Posters had already been put up.

Fo, 87, who won his Nobel in 1997 to the public dismay of many post-Fascist and centre-right politicians, accused the Vatican of censorship.

He said it spoiled "all the joy Pope Francis is giving us".

Leftist activists Fo and Rame, who died aged 83 on May 29, collaborated on many satirical works savaging Italian politics, the Catholic Church and the downtrodden status of women.

Fo penned most of the works but Rame contributed a lot - and her play on her 1973 gang rape by five rightist thugs was a big hit.

Fo, who has always described himself as a mere 'jester' despite the fierce political nature of his satire, has been celebrated abroad but has had to face fierce conservative criticism at home.

He recently picked up an honorary degree from Rome's La Sapizenza university, adding to many laurels. The award citation praised Fo as an anti-establishment artist unafraid of "speaking up against power" in the great tradition of Italy's satirical Commedia dell'Arte theatre.

Distinguished linquistics professor Tullio De Mauro recalled that Fo had been shunned by top Italian academics who considered him an intellectual lightweight and troublemaker, keeping him off syllabuses.

The first mention of Fo's possible candidacy for the Nobel, years before he got it, caused "a revolt" in academe, De Mauro recalled.

"This was because Fo's work, even when it is based on far-off events, brings us back to contemporary lacerations," De Mauro said, referring to the playwright's blasts against conservative and repressive forces.

In an acceptance lecture, Fo resurrected a ribald 13th-century poem which lambasted the powerful and remarked how medieval barons, rulers and merchants could get away with rape by paying compensation.

Fo sharpened his wits in social satire after the war and later moved to tragi-comic and mordant political theatre - exemplified by his most famous works, Mistero Buffo (1969) and The Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1970).

With muse and wife Rame at his side, Fo dabbled in experimental street theatre in the late '70s and later returned to his roots in merry agit-prop and language games aimed partly at preserving a rapid-fire northern Italian minstrel's idiom called 'grammelot'.

Despite illness, he has kept going strong in recent years with farces like The Devil With Tits (1997); another grammelot monologue, The Holy Jester St Francis (1999); and a lecture-show called The Temple of Free Men (2004).

He latest work cast a critical eye on how women were airbrushed out of the history of early Christianity and later kept down by Church institutions.

Fo, who was recently among those proposed as Italian president by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of his friend, Genoese comic Beppe Grillo, was a surprise pick for the Nobel in Literature 16 years ago. The selection enraged Fo's domestic critics, who accuse him of facile invective and falsifying events in attacking political targets.

In awarding him the Nobel, the Swedish Academy said "His independence and his clear vision led him to take great risks".

"Fo's strength lies in creating works that entertain you, challenge you and give you perspective", the Stockholm academics said.

(Editor:YaoChun、Liang Jun)

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