(Le voci di dentro.)
by Eduardo De Filippo.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 29 March 2014.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
Performances sold out.
TICKETS: 020 7638 8891.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 March.
Expertly performed kind of urban Midsummer Day’s Dreaming.
This 1948 play suggests Geoffrey Chaucer (‘Men say that in dreams there are many lies’) would have an ally in Eduardo De Filippo. It starts comically, with the Cimmaruta’s servant Maria slumbering instead of working, then describing herridiculous dream. But becomes more serious when the elderly Saporito brother arrive from their neighbouring apartment – close on lookalikes when played by the Servillo brothers, director Toni in the plum part and Peppe as the indigent Carlo begging a breakfast bit-by-bit from the Cimmarutas.
Dreams have told Alberto his neighbours have committed a murder – the first of several misjudgments characters make about each other – and has summoned the police. No laughing matter, yet there’s plenty of humour around. An account of disruptive dreams making a problem of getting dressed sees old Pasquale unable to put on his tie, while Alberto’s certainty there’s a concealed body leads to an absurd conversation about moving furniture.
By the time Alberto’s realised it’s nonsense, the wrongly-accused Cimmarutas start suspecting each other. And there’s the expiring uncle who only communicates by setting off fireworks, till he finally expires. And the supposed dead body turns up alive and well.
The play’s not going to win any Silver Dagger, and wasn’t meant to. It observes the folly implicit in people living close to each other – De Filippo lived and worked in Naples, setting his plays there.
The production will surprise audiences who have seen previous English productions of his plays, with their abundant Neapolitan detail. From Milan’s notable Piccolo Theatre, it comes with the visual impact of Peter Hall’s Stratford-upon-Avon Wars of the Roses, or Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream there in the 1960s.
Set against a blank wall, with minimal furnishings, the Saporitos’ chair-hire business suggested by a spiral of seats snaking behind the wall in the middle act, it throws attention on characters’ behaviour, finely balancing laughter and seriousness at the possibilities in everyday human behaviour.
And the play is rounded by sleep. Maria’s opening slumber, caught in photo-like images, is mirrored as, adventures over, the brothers nod off on chairs, as far apart as can be.
Maria: Chiara Baffi.
Rosa Cimmaruta: Betti Pedrazzi.
Michele: Marcello Romola.
Carlo Saporito: Peppe Servillo.
Alberto Saporito: Toni Servillo.
Pasquale Cimmaruta: Gigio Morra.
Matilde Cimmaruta: Lucia Mandarini.
Luigi Cimmaruta: Vincenzo Nemolato.
Elvira Cimmaruta: Marianna Robustelli.
Officer: Antonello Cassia.
Zi’ Nicola: Daghi Rondanini.
Capa d’Angelo: Rocco Giordano.
Teresa Amitrano: Maria Robustelli.
Aniello Amitrano: Francesco Paglino.
Director: Toni Servillo.
Designer: Lino Fiorito.
Lighting: Cesare Accetta.
Sound: Daghi Rondanini.
Costume: Ortensia De Francesco.
Assistant director: Costanza Boccardi.