BROS – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
by Brian Merriman
Romeo Castelucci – BROS
Venue: O’Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College
Dates: 14-15 Oct. 7.30pm
I hadn’t been in the O’Reilly theatre for years. I recall its original ‘letterbox’ stage and limitations. They are long gone and this vast open stage is a great city centre asset. It was so hot inside, I wondered had someone abolished the energy crisis!
BROS is a ninety minute piece from Italy created and directed by the multi-talented Romeo Castellucci, that recreates concepts of brutality of man to man. They recruited 23 actors locally as an obedient Greek chorus of uniformed policemen who carry out the atrocities. I have no doubt the experience of these actors was rich.
‘Concept’ theatre is often opaque. You are challenged to zone into the creator’s wavelength, you either can’t, won’t or the creator doesn’t want you to. And if so, why?
The purpose of theatre is to convey your story. The duty of the reviewer is frequently pleasant, but sometimes it reminds you to stick it out to the end.
There was a strong design element to the piece and the technical design and delivery (directed by Eugenio Resta) all worked impressively, especially the stage sculptures and automations (Plastikart Studio). Clearly, the production team made a huge financial investment in this dark piece. They threw everything at it, great police costumes, blood, fluids, water, photography, batons, sausages and a plucked turkey!
There is an ‘intellectualism’, faux or otherwise around concept theatre. This production will have sparked many conversations. Does the creative team convey their concept to the audience? Is it a production failure or an audience failure, if the intellectual concept fails to be communicated from the stage?
There were hints at the start that conveying the concept could be a challenge or even a difficulty. Beautifully produced guidance documents were available, where the creator goes to great lengths to set out what is to be achieved. We get translations of key statements, the instructions the 23 actors received (and carried out effectively) and quotations from the Book of Jeremiah. If the stage production sets out to achieve its goal, why is there a need for these – if there were an essential context, why was the opportunity to backdrop these on stage not used?
The piece opens with an older man (I assume Jeremiah?) who rants and rails in Biblical robes from joy to woe for about five minutes…in Italian with no on stage translation. If you hadn’t read the paperwork, you were more likely to be confused from the start. The banners in Italian are held up and a voiceover in English is heard. We are about ten minutes in.
The thirty strong, well costumed (by Chiara Venturini), well-disciplined, all male company work hard for the 90 minutes. Some further time in, despite the auditorium being in pitch blackness, mainly people with light at the front, began to leave. Was it ‘too much’ for them? Did they fail to ‘get it’? Was the graphic depiction upsetting? Or was the concept failing to engage and come over the ‘footlights? But, they continued to leave for the next hour. Many of course, stayed.
We witnessed on stage waterboarding, a man tied up in a heavy plastic bag, the repeated batoning of a naked man and a lot more repetition of actions throughout. Then the impressive cylinders that sprayed water spouts did their bit and loud gunshots rang out. Two dogs patrolled us too – was it to keep us there? Finally, a ‘rouched’ tab is lowered and the illusion (I hope) is that a boy was inside (for over an hour?). His innocence adds to the disturbance…the next generation will be shown how to brutalise other human beings.
We had a series of fits/electrocutions, well played for a few minutes and then in cannon style all the police joined in one at a time until over 20 wriggled energetically on the floor…but I don’t want to give more of the plot away fully!
After almost 90 minutes of some strong, mute, imagery, the remaining audience responded. Some gave a standing ovation. The majority sat. Many didn’t applaud at all.
Theatre is a (genderless) ‘brotherhood’ (BROS) of sorts between creators and audience. There will be many conversations in Dublin’s theatre circles and at least they will be in the vernacular, so people might at least, understand.
There is a responsibility for any creator to communicate clearly, or, if they don’t want to do that and internalise their intent…they can always claim that it may be the audience’s fault after all?
Cast and Creative Team
Conception and directing: Romeo Castellucci
Music: Scott Gibbons
With Valer Dellakeza and the Officers Luca Nava, Sergio Scarlatella
Collaboration in dramaturgy: Piersandra Di Matteo
Director’s assistants: Silvano Voltolina, Filippo Ferraresi
Standards written by: Claudia Castellucci
Technical director: Eugenio Resta
Stage technician: Andrei Benchea
Light technician: Andrea Sanson
Sound technician: Claudio Tortorici
Costumes: Chiara Venturini
Stage sculptures and automations: Plastikart studio
Costume creation: Atélier Grazia Bagnaresi
Latin translation: Stefano Bartolini
Production director: Benedetta Briglia
Production and tour: Giulia Colla
Promotion and distribution: Gilda Biasini
Organisation: Caterina Soranzo
Technical headquarters team: Carmen Castellucci, Francesca Di Serio, Gionni Gardini
Administration: Michela Medri, Elisa Bruno, Simona Barducci
Economic consultancy: Massimiliano Coli