Thursday, 27 August 2009

Francis, The Holy Jester - Edinburgh Fringe

Francis, The Holy Jester
Writer/Director: Dario Fo

Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Fringe Rating: Two Stars

This production of Dario Fo’s play about Italy’s famous saint is performed as a one-man show by Mario Pirovano, Fo’s long time friend and collaborator. Translated from the Italian, this was touted as it’s first performance in English, however, I did not expect that it would literally sound like the first time. It did not appear that the text was set, or that Pirovano was in any way safe working in English. The tales, although interesting to start with, were incredibly long and unfocussed – so much so that the show had to stop abruptly when the third of the four stories was finished as it was going to overrun.

Made up of four monologues told from the point of viewpoint of Francis of Asissi, and linked by Pirovano’s explainations of the stories, ‘Francis, The Holy Jester’ is a very mixed bag. The introduction was interesting and informative, explaining that in Italy stories about St Francis were censored for 600 years, with those possessing books about him facing imprisonment or burning at the stake. The first monologue started well, with Francis giving an address to the people of Bolonga. Pirovano adopted a strong physicality, however vocally it felt a bit strained, and the declamatory style of delivery associated with Italian theatre became somewhat repetitive and dogmatic. The second story compounded this, and was extremely long and lacking in clarity – it felt like it could have been split or edited to make it a more manageable piece – but the third was fairly simple,and offered another opportunity for Pirovano to work more physically, which is one of his strengths.

Ultimately this should have been a more enjoyable and engaging piece than it was, and it was hard to keep focussed when the tales, particularly the second, meandered and dragged for such a long period of time. As it did stop so suddenly and without the final story the play did suffer and Pirovano was unable to end the piece decisively, leaving me unsatisfied by the production.

Pleasance Courtyard, 5-31 Aug (not 18, 25), 15:00 (16:15), prices vary.
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