Pasolini’s Salò Redubbed – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Dylan Tighe and the Abbey Theatre, Ireland
Until Oct 5th
Contains graphic scenes of a violent and sexual nature. Suitable for ages 18+
Pasolini’s ‘Salò’ or ‘120 Days of Sodom’ as it was called in its English language print was released onto an unsuspecting public in 1975. Billed as an ‘art horror’ film, it is loosely based on the book ‘The 120 Days of Sodom’ by the Marquis de Sade. It is set during the second World War and shows four wealthy, Italian men who kidnap a number of teenagers and subject them to months of rape and torture. The film is quite graphic in nature and holds little back from its audience. As you would expect, it was banned in Ireland and has rarely been screened in this country.
Dylan Tighe’s production uses the visuals from the original film but reworks the sound, with a collection of actors on stage to perform a revised text. The images are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. In front of the screen, there are three tables with seven actors who perform the voices of the various characters.
The piece is introduced by Tighe, who comes on stage and talks in fluent Italian, describing what he is trying to get across with this work. The production aims to draw comparisons between what went on in the various institutions around Ireland and the images of the film. The abuse of power was widespread and those who lived in these institutions had no way to fight against the system imposed on them. While the images of the film are shocking and a heightened version of reality, it is easy to see the comparison.
“The film is a seminal exploration of what director John Waters has called ‘the pornography of power’. Pasolini’s allegory of absolute power is a paradigm which offers us a way of looking again, with sharper vision, at our own reality, and at the structural violence, class supremacy, toxic masculinity and abuses of power within it. In my version, I have quoted liberally from a range of sources from the history of institutionalisation in Ireland.” – Dylan Tighe
The production has an impressive cast, with Gina Moxley and Daniel Reardon playing their parts with a twisted glint in their eyes. Peter Gaynor’s main character has a bombastic nature, full of fury and bluster. Will O’Connell plays some of the quieter roles, while also adding accompaniment on keyboard in some places. The production is an unusual mix of theatre and cinema, and you often find yourself watching the voice actors and not the images on screen!
The production is quite tongue in cheek, despite its harsh edge. The film starts with the original setting of a seaside Italian town. The words ‘Sligo’ appear on the screen beneath the image! The comedic touches lighten what is often difficult viewing. The film contains scenes of rape and other graphic sexual content. The combination of these images along with text often taken directly from the evidence given by those you survived the institutions does make for harrowing viewing.
It is difficult to make a piece of theatre out of the abuse suffered in the various Irish institutions but it is clearly still a worthwhile topic. Theatre needs to look at the negatives of a society, just as much as the positives. Ireland has a history of glossing over these issues, especially now we have seemingly turned the corner to become a more liberal society. We can say these issues are part of our shameful past and do not reflect our present situation, but the production also introduces the plight of refugees from more recent times. The piece asks a number of difficult questions of its audience in this distressing but rewarding work.
Cast: Thomas Collins
Cast: Peter Gaynor
Cast: Lauren Larkin
Cast: Niamh McCann
Cast: Gina Moxley
Cast: Will O’Connell
Cast: Daniel Reardon
Directed and Adapted by: Dylan Tighe
Lighting Design: Aedín Cosgrove
Video Design: José Miguel Jiménez
Assistant Video Design: Eavan Aiken
Set Design: Aedín Cosgrove and Dylan Tighe
Post-Production Sound Design: Kevin Gleeson
Sound Engineer and Additional Design: Alexis Nealon
Costume Supervisor and Stylist: Ellen Kirk
Assistant Director: Grace Morgan
Production Manager: Anthony Hanley
Stage Manager: Baz O’Donovan
Assistant Stage Manager: Roxzan Bowes
Producer: Gwen Van Spijk
Dramaturgical Support: Colin Murphy and Louise Stephens
Production Photography: Luca Truffarelli
Publicity Image: Courtesy of Park Circus/MGM Studios