La Luna e i Falò staged by Italian actor Andrea Bosca, directed by Paolo Briguglia for BAM Teatro and co-written by the actor himself, returns to the stage.
A superb one-act play, at the service of a text with hypnotic traits (rightly defined as a 'prose songbook'), masterfully staged using continuous changing points of view; during which Bosca dominates the stage and enchants the audience, mastering a poignant mimicry and a purity of gesture that define the play itself, making it eternally his.
La Luna e i Falò (The Moon and the Bonfires) is a fierce cry, a set of choral fragments artfully united to form a magma of epic echoes. Set close to the Liberation in the Langhe region in Italy, it is considered the supreme text in Pavese's production and allows the impeccable Bosca to give voice to a whirlwind of characters and recreate an entire country. On which does this modernity depend? How can Anguilla the protagonist, reflect all of us, even today? He succeeds because our bewilderment is the same as his and his return from America places him in a non-place of which he is the bridge. He returns because he has understood that those 'stars were not his', that often it is not courage that makes us leave, but desperation.
The recent return to the stage of the show has given us the opportunity to undertake a two-stage journey with Andrea Bosca himself, starting with his first impressions at the beginning of 2020, and reaching his current awareness and future plans1.
What challenges have you encountered in staging a text for which you are required to bring an entire country to life?
The work on writing started a year ago, already knowing the novel. Working with the production, we immediately realised that the play was already interesting in itself, but it showed a dramaturgical problem: the characters, who always meet to remember something, leaving little room for imagination. Since the nature of the text is monological, it seemed right to have an artistic counterpart, so the production brought me together with Paolo Briguglia, whose work I knew but had never met before. It was a great move because he became - together with me - the other soul of the writing. Being an educated Sicilian thespian, and having lived in a land that knows violence, I thought that he would understand and be able to grasp all aspects of this work that are not merely literary.
We worked together for six months and finished the first version in August. After that, I went on holiday to the Asti area (as I always do) and, surrounded by these places, I began to study the text by heart. It was a long path, during which I saw Paolo again and we embarked on an itinerant journey like that of Anguilla. The greatest difficulty in interpretation was to maintain an organic path within the performance, which would be true especially from the temporal point of view, since the book is written in a timeless way and this is not possible in theatre. For this reason, we had to break down the last part, to find the sense of a character who arrives and acts for an hour and twenty minutes, and then leaves. This was the second challenge related to the dramaturgical work.
Naturally, the play also has to be accessible to those who have not read the book.
Of course, we had to make this story intelligible to everyone, without necessarily having read it, otherwise we would have lost from the start. The audience has to attune itself with these varied and fragmented figures. It is a complex structure, which meant that we had to simulate the entire town square, all the while looking people in the eye, talking heart to heart with them (as I like to do), to allow them to enter the story slowly.
What was it like to be confronted with such a text, with an evident lyrical substratum?
Paolo always wants to be clear, as he has a great sense of music, and I am very attached to the poetry of some parts, because it really is a prose songbook with pure poetic elements (even when a farmer is speaking) so, the hard work was done on the cuts even though we always had a dialogue, finding an important synergy.
Were there specific moments when you wanted the show to be one way and he another?
Nothing but micro moments, as Paolo literally fitted the show to me, taking up every point and remaining firm and determined. When something wasn't right, he made me try it again and I really appreciated that, because you have to make the show as good as it can possibly be2.
Since the premiere of La Luna e i Falò, how has your relationship with the text you are staging changed?
I am happy to be on tour again with the play, because - after the forced hiatus - it is really starting to come together, thanks to my commitment to adapting it each time and revising the text, always with the utmost respect for the version agreed with director Paolo Briguglia. It's a work that I feel is close to my life and that I love precisely because it gives me the chance to be an author even when I modify it. Obviously, there are parts that spoke to me more before Covid, and others that - afterwards - have taken greater prominence.
The sense of community that wavers, for example, and the relationship with the feminine (which I feel with great delicacy). We are talking about people overwhelmed by their own history and desires, who are not to be judged and, in my imagination, I feel that I participate in the life of each of them. I used to feel Anguilla a lot, his return, his absence from home... but now I feel the others at the same level as if the whole story were unfolding inside me. I am moved by the allegorical and pure female characters and their lost bets in life, or thinking back to the first part and those forty years I have always felt I had.
It is a story with high possibilities, which speaks with the voice of a boy who has not studied, but has travelled the world, reminding me of the words of Majakovsky: “...I learned geography with my hips...”, reflecting my desire to create, after having seen so much, because sometimes art and life collide and come close to your personal story. You have to know how not to mix the cards too much, but also to understand that a role comes at a specific time, because you resonate with that particular energy.
However, Pavese's novel is not considered easy to approach, and I believe that this performance makes it easier to access, as I think and speak like Anguilla. Giving him a voice makes him easier to understand, and it takes a performer who knows how to express his thoughts, understanding that certain things have to be said in a certain way. When you really get into the story, all the actions he had lived and felt need to be reported (and I have also heard that speech from people close to me, of rural extraction), otherwise, it is reduced to a purely literary operation and is difficult to grasp.
Pavese put a lot of life into this story, giving everything, without hiding and addressing important themes: the beauty of living, friendship, sharing, the love for a person who makes your heart beat faster; facts experienced by an alter ego that is perhaps stronger or just simpler than he was; where true introspection was not yet possible, he made up for it in writing.
Today we have the advantage of being able to work within ourselves and improve, and although it is true that our seasons define us and we are what we have lived, we must - also - 'handle' those seasons to allow the part of us that loves and wants to leave a mark, to live.
In addition to theatre, in the last year and a half, you have dedicated yourself to various other projects. Can you tell us about them?
Right now, I'm in theatres with the new film by Costanza Quatriglio: Trafficante di Virus, starring Anna Foglietta, which takes up the story of Ilaria Capua and was presented at the Turin Film Festival (editor's note: these days it's in cinemas as a special event and then will be released on Amazon Prime). After that, a work dedicated to Marco Pannella will be released, directed by Mimmo Calopresti.
3 Caminos, on the other hand, is a Spanish and international Amazon series, which I hope will soon be available in Italy. I learned Spanish and acted in English, with wonderful actors, with whom I have cemented a friendship in real life. I play a leading role that has allowed me to work a lot on the evolution of the character, because Luca changes profoundly from episode to episode. Over the years I have realised that I want to enter into a much deeper connection with the characters I play, discovering what they represent, with great honesty. I think all the works you love should be perceived as a life experience, as an opportunity to create something meaningful with others, that deepens you as a person.
I believe that I have a romantic streak in me and that in each of us there is a part that wants to create and a part that wants to destroy. I know both, and although I have chosen where to stand, the other side should not necessarily be demonised. The characters in the series are interwoven with this ambivalence: the sense of transformation they experience thanks to others, to the journey, and to an important friendship, which gives them a sense of hope, even in loss, in the final. I, for example, can't tell you that I'm good at making definitive choices, but when projects like this come to me, I confront them, even if it's difficult. It is the only chance we all have in the face of the inevitable: trying to grow without running away, facing it and understanding what is really going on, opening our eyes to reality without stopping dreaming and imagining, letting the two concepts move in unison; otherwise, we would live basic or detached lives and I don't think that is our aim.
1 The first part of the interview took place at the Teatro Alfieri in Asti, on 17th January 2020.
2 The second part of the interview took place at the Teatro di Bosconero (TO), on 13th November 2021.