Marcel Vol. I – Italian Politics as a Work of Art

Marcel Vol I explores the topic of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sex scandals, portrayed in the form of an absurdist nightmare.

Individually, both the Berlusconi and post-apocalyptic tracks of the performance are interesting enough. However, given only about a third of the show’s 45-minute runtime, the post-apocalyptic sections don’t receive enough exploration to provide us with much emotional or intellectual stimulation.

The audience is greeted by what feels like an ominously un-self-aware parody of performance art: a group of people dressed all in black, solemnly snapping their fingers and making repetitive physical gestures while sitting underneath a naked, decapitated mannequin wearing a leather harness and a horse’s head. They mutter in Italian before breaking into a dream sequence (also in Italian) where three performers pretend to be monkeys while the fourth is a drill sergeant.

This gives way to two more comprehensible narratives: a post-apocalyptic scenario where two women discuss the cause and effect of a mysterious “blackout,” and a satirical retelling of Silvio Berlusconi’s most recent spate of high-profile sex scandals. Partially inspired by the work of Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, Marcel uses the absurd to skewer Berlusconi’s infamous involvement with various women, including the underage showgirl known as Ruby Rubacuori. Ruby is portrayed by the headless mannequin and a pair of disembodied legs, which are appropriately used as a kind of silent puppet character while Berlusconi is the one who gets to do the actual talking.

The three female members of Ursa Maior Teatro manage well in the context of this performance but are seriously let down by their male counterpart. Whenever he has to deliver a line of dialogue or recite information about the Berlusconi scandals, he sounds as if he is reading awkwardly from a cue-card, killing off any attempt at humour.

Individually, both the Berlusconi and post-apocalyptic tracks of the performance are interesting enough. However, given only about a third of the show’s 45-minute runtime, the post-apocalyptic sections don’t receive enough exploration to provide us with much emotional or intellectual stimulation. Also, the links between those sequences and the Berlusconi sections are very unclear. My assumption was that this post-apocalyptic landscape represents the worst possible end result of Italy’s current political climate, but since these scenes concentrate more on slightly pretentious philosophical discussions (“Violence is like dust.”), they don’t really manage to deepen the political or social commentary of the other scenes.

Reviews by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In homage to Duchamp, this performance is an attempt to turn into art even the grossest Italian politics. Marcel is an outcry of grief, a performance running on two tracks: two survivors in an apocalyptic set on one and the characters’ nightmares on the other. The nightmares are readymade, created from the recorded calls from the Ruby case involving the former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and an underage Moroccan girl. Violence is like dust.