For around a week now in Longoio my head has literally been in the clouds. Mist and a little drizzle have blotted out all the surrounding hills and almost make me nostalgic of such Celtic areas as Wales and Scotland. It’s no better time for enjoying reading, looking at holiday photos or going to see films and the theatre.
I don’t have to go far for the last. Bagni di Lucca’s Teatro Accademico is hosting as usual an intoxicating winter season. The only snag is that in Italy theatre performances generally start after 9 pm just when I’m thinking of my nightcap. True, there are matinees: il Teatro del Giglio in Lucca always has one but here it’s a case of drinking a strong cup of coffee and then descending through the mists of time to reach our little and historic theatre.
On Saturday night La Fortuna si diverte (Luck has fun) by Athos Setti was offered with well-known actors Daniela Morozzi (who starred in canale 5’s Distretto di Polizia) and Emanuele Barresi.
I had no idea of the existence of either play or playwright but journalist and friend Marco Nicoli soon put me right about it since he’d played the key role forty years previously. In fact, Marco played the starring role when the theatre company insieme he was in debuted at the Teatro. ‘Long live the theatre’ he exclaimed.
(Marco Nicoli in La Fortuna si diverte at the Teatro Accademico in 1975)
La Fortuna si diverte was written in 1936 and became an instant success. The plot centres on a devotee of Dante who worships and always consults a bust of the great poet in his living room. Family fortunes are at low ebb especially when son-in-law gets sacked and drink starts taking over. Meanwhile, the women try to make ends meet by dress-making:
One night, however, the protagonist has a dream in which Dante tell him which four numbers will win the next lottery. There’s one snag, however: the four numbers will also predict when he will die!
Scene two opens in an opulent flat. Gone are the rickety wooden chairs and toiling women. Louis XVI gilded chairs decorate the salon and the nouveau riches are extravagantly dressed in the latest kitsch fashions which only those just come into the money will indulge in. Even the butler is embarrassed by them and has to teach etiquette and ‘comme il faut’ to the family.
However, the final hour is coming and our hero is getting frantic about it. His wife is already donning her flowing black widows weeds and everyone is waiting for the fateful moment.
When it arrives a doctor friend comes into the mansion, takes the supposedly dead man’s pulse, examines his heart beat and confirms that he is still alive. Relief at last! But wait a minute, or five…..The doctor has set his watch correctly by the local observatory and everyone else’s watches are five minutes fast. There’s still five minutes to go!
With that cliff hanger the play ends.
The acting was quite superb, especially in the ensemble pieces, and the audience, thankfully quite numerous, was vivaciously amused. The company recognised this and thanked them for giving them such a good send-off since this performance would be the start of the company’s tour…
Who was playwright Athos Setti? He came from Livorno. Indeed, the whole play was spoken with a thick livornese accent which really had my ears perked up to try to follow everything that was said.
However, Setti comes to his fame second-hand for one of his great admirers was that doyen of Italian vernacular comedy playwrights, Eduardo de Filippo. It was Eduardo who adapted the play to a Neapolitan setting and renamed it Sogno Di Una Notte Di Mezza Sbornia (A half-drunken dream). Later, in 1959, a successful film was made of Eduardo’s adaption starring Eduardo himself and Pupella Maggio.
I’m glad I stepped out of the misty gloom of Longoio and ventured into the limelight of our local theatre. It was a truly enjoyable evening and I look forwards to the forthcoming performances at the Teatro Accademico:
The next one, incidentally, will be that perennial classic, The Florentine Straw Hat, on the 6th of February. Don’t’ miss it:
Here’s the link for the whole season’s programme.
Note them in your diary now!