Mistero Buffo is undoubtedly Dario Fo’s most often performed work, with over ten million people having seen the play worldwide. Despite the Vatican’s claim that the televised version of the play was ‘the most blasphemous programme ever broadcast in the history of world television’, Mistero Buffo is a timeless piece which raises many issues of current concern for reflection and debate.
Stage Left Production’s offering at Belvoir Street Theatre does not present the entire work, but rather a selection of four of the original short plays including: ‘The Birth of Jongleur’, ‘The Resurrection of Lazarus’, ‘Boniface VIII’ and ‘The Fool Beneath the Cross’. The two actors perform the show in the small and intimate downstairs studio, which allows for direct interaction with the audience who become part of the performance on several occasions. The stage is simply set with nothing more than a park bench, garbage bin and pile of old newspapers scattered around the space and these items are set against a backdrop of Sydney, with white newspaper cut outs of the city skyline including Sydney Harbour Bridge and Centre Point Tower stuck onto a black cloth. This brings the issues and themes of the play into the here and now and specifically to Sydney 2008 rather than giving them a generalized time frame and location.
The evening opens with ‘The Birth of Jongleur’ and the actor lying on the park bench submerged beneath a pile of old newspapers. On appearing from beneath his cosy blanket he tells a sorry tale of how he has lost everything thanks to a greedy over lord. This piece deals with themes of the misuse of authority and power and encourages common people to question ruling institutions. Myles Pollard as the ‘jongleur’ performs confidently in a clear voice and convincingly paints the image of a long suffering and down trodden peasant. Having lost everything he decides to kill himself but is saved by the appearance of Jesus, St. John and St. Mark who command him to ‘deflate him (the over lord) with the sharpness of your tongue’. There is only one actor in this play and Mr. Pollard plays all parts, convincingly portraying the others through his voice and physicality. Jesus kisses the ‘jongleur’ and concludes the play saying ‘we must speak out, these rulers they must be broken’.
A new character enters and ‘The Resurrection of Lazarus’ begins. The second play is a wonderful criticism of religion and blind faith and Douglas Blaikie brilliantly portrays a myriad different characters. His ability to change between an English, British, Scottish and Australian accent at break neck speed is truly impressive as is the way he paints such strong images with nothing more than his body and voice. With the end of this play the actor exits and after a chiming of bells off stage he reappears dressed as Pope Boniface.
The third play ‘Boniface VIII’ is an absolutely scathing attack on the Catholic Church and once again Mr. Blaikie does a brilliant job at creating many different characters, this time with an Italian accent. Fo’s text combined with this very clever acting tells us much about the vanity of the church and the role of the Pope in society, and a brief reference to Handel’s Alleluia Chorus is a humorous touch. The Pope becomes quite vicious about Jesus when the Saviour accuses him of doing wrong, and calls him a ‘donkey’ saying ‘it would give me great pleasure to see you nailed up’! These utterances are quite shocking and this play is definitely not for those who believe.
The final play ‘The Fool beneath the Cross’ paints a shocking ghastly picture of the Lord nailed to the cross and also uses some extremely blasphemous language. Jesus declares that he does not want to be saved but hopes for ‘sacrifice, salvation and redemption’, and that he will die even for one man worthy of being saved. The fool responds to this by saying to Jesus: ‘You are the chief of all fools’ and ‘the son of God is mad!’
Mistero Buffo is a clever piece, cleverly directed and although it runs for only a little more than an hour it will take you on an interesting and challenging journey. It contains many themes relevant to our world today and the excellent acting and direction make this definitely worth checking out.
Stage Left Productions presents
by Dario Fo | Translated by Ed Emery
Venue: Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Dates: 27th March – 13th April
Times: Tues 7pm, Wed – Sat 8.15pm, Sun 5.15pm
Tickets: Full $29, Conc $23, Preview $20 (26th March)
Bookings: (02) 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au