LE CENERI DI GRAMSCI [GRAMSCI’S ASHES] – Virgilio Sieni and Sandro Lombardi
Teatro Pergolesi, Jesi (Ancona), 4 April 2008
Two men wearing a black t-shirt and grey trousers slowly walk on stage, which is very dark. One can barely distinguish the two moving shapes. Then the music starts and one of them sits on a stool. Both of them seem to benefit from a strong dynamic affinity, their fluid movements melt and suavely mix. This is the quiet, solemn and austere opening of an experimental piece of theatre, “Gramsci’s Ashes”. Based on the homonymous poem by poet, writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini, it is the result of the collaboration between actor and writer Sandro Lombardi and choreographer and dancer Virgilio Sieni.
The poem opens with the persona being torn between the contradiction of Marxism and Catholic religion. There is a specific place where these doubts are expressed, that is the English cemetery in Rome where the Italian politician, philosopher and journalist Antonio Gramsci was buried. The persona addresses the spirit of Gramsci and starts recalling his ideas and ideals: “the scandal of contradicting myself, of being / with you and against you; with you in my heart, / in light, against you in dark bowels”. In this sense the minimal set and the dark atmosphere well introduce us to the mood of the piece.
The music, by Angelo Badalamenti is inserted during the moments when Lombardi is silent. Otherwise it is his voice which produces the rhythm for Sieni’s dissonant movements, often performed in place and characterised by arm swinging and lifting. In many sections the two men dance together, at one point Sieni embraces Lombardi from behind, putting his hands under his armpits, and carrying him as if her were a Christ figure. He puts him down and moves down next to him. This phrase is repeated a few times and each time it seems to add to the intensity of the moment. “Catholic is / his [the individual’s] fight with his remains…Authority and Anarchy…with what kind of conscience does the I live: I / live eluding life, with, in my chest, / the sense of a life which is a painful, violent oblivion”.
Towards the end the both stand on their knees on the proscenium and, from the wooden floor, they pull out a red cloth. It is almost a blinding colour as the set and costumes are so monochromatic that the cloth creates a sharp contrast. They place it on their head and face as if overwhelmed by its power. They slowly fold it and place it on the floor. They stand up and, hugging each other walk back stage. The final touch is maybe a bit out of place as they pick up a long fabric where the following sentence is written with many coloured flowers: “I am going”. Lombardi had pronounced it a few minutes earlier and it seems to represent the appropriate way to close the piece.
In “Gramsci’s Ashes” words and dancing develop together amplifying each other’s meaning, it is a fruitful dialogue made of embodied echoes. As the programme says: “it is a homage to the poet, a reflection on the sense and perception of body and history, so that the scene opens to the polysemous ambiguity of the poetic language, an ambiguity here magnified by an unusual interpretation, not limited to acting and dancing, but based on their encounter in the name of a poetic text”.