Judgement, Possibility, Being

by Romeo Castellucci

With: Silvia Costa, Laura Dondoli, Irene Petris, Alice Torriani
and ten extras

Sound technician: Michele Braga

Production: Societas
Translation: Cesare Lievi

Photo: Guido Mencari

Gymnastic exercises on “The Death of Empedocles” by Friedrich Hölderlin, to be carried out in a gym.

I’m looking for a gym. A large room I can borrow, to do some rehearsals. A found place, with no heating, that you can only reach by passing through smelly locker rooms; a place that is “wrong” for theatre. Or rather, not. A gym, now, an exact place, the fulfilment of the heresy and untimely beauty of Hölderlin. Hölderlin’s poetry will be uttered in a gym, undercover, far from the conventional cables and wires of institutional theatre. This is exercise, discipline, work on the present.

Watching the abstract sequence of an exercise, the ellipse traced by a silent gesture that cleaves the air, or listening to a verse articulated as an affirmation: this will involve contemplating an empty space, prepared solely through the things that are seen and heard; achieving a space with no content, as a place for revelation. Renouncing discourse; searching for the absolute elegance buried in form; searching for the glacial precision of an aesthetics under surveillance.

In the figurative light of the spectator’s gaze, everything will become judgement, possibility, being, following the words of the Poet himself. In Ancient Greece – to which Hölderlin turned during his entire life – the Gymnasium was the place in which young people prepared themselves for athletic contests. Only after their time in the Gymnasium could the young be ushered into adult life, able to face war. Hölderlin’s prose contains continual references to youth, but not in terms of one’s chronological age. And so, who is this adolescent, what does he want and what does he represent? The youth is the untimely, he who does not live in his own time; he who, per contrarium, is the contemporary for whom everything is always new. He who will be given the task of speaking to this age, from the deferred time of a representation. He will be Empedocles, the heretic who abandons the city to scale the mountain and throw himself into the fire of being.

In the gym, provisionally welcomed on high-jump or artistic gymnastics mats, what the spectators will see and hear is a textual score – and virtually no more – closely related to Hölderlin’s “The Death of Empedocles”. This tragedy’s group of characters will be interpreted by a company made up of young women. Are they students, at a school? Or, perhaps, the members of some female community? Are they rehearsing a performance, behind closed doors? Only one thing seems to be sure: entering through the wrong door, the spectators appear in the middle of a theatrical action that perfectly resembles a contest among adolescent women who have no external means, but that contains all of their stubborn determination to devote poetry to theatre.