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Why this theatre "steels" the show!

Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) presents Made In Ilva by Instabili Vaganti. The act is a masterpiece of physical theatre exploring the impact of the biggest steelworks in Europe on the environment and surrounding population. From an original script based on real life testimonies and poems from the workers at the Ilva steel plant which had caused severe damage to the environment by emitting toxic gases and causing deaths from cancer and leukemia. This theatrical performance has been bestowed with several awards such as 2013 Critics Award in Ermo Colle 2013, ward Cassino OFF Theatres of Life and 2012 Total Theatre Award Nomination at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014. Abhijit Ganguly spoke to Nicola Pianzola and Anna Dora Dorno before their show on 11th September, 2015 at the Indian Council For Cultural Relations(ICCR), Rabindranath Tagore Centre, 9A, In Rabindranath Tagore Centre, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Central, Kolkata

Why do you think theatre is the best way to convey the ills of modern/industrialized Europe? I think theatre is a complete art in the sense that can join different artistic forms and establish a stronger communication with the spectator because the channel of this communication is a living body. In this way theatre has a great responsibility of intervention on the society dynamics and in our case on the industrialized and globalized Western world. In our theatre we search for new ways and possibilities of human expression through the performer work, we work on our esthetics and poetics, looking for the beauty of art, but at the same time we deal with social issues because we feel the urgency to say our opinion, to take our position through our artistic identity and our role of artists in this society. Being supported by Italian Institutions in this tournée in India with a performance such MADE IN ILVA is showing that in our country we have the freedom to talk of delicate and dangerous topics in order to attract the attention on them and to start to think to a solution.

You have won many awards with this piece. Is it the subject matter or the dance that is the most compelling? When we read the motivations attached to the awards won, what emerge is that the perfect combination of artistic quality and civil commitment was the most convincing element or the Jury of experts and critics. Theatre is social itself as it is a precious possibility of expression for the human being, a way to talk through art, to start from the ugliness of such a matter and reach the beauty of arts through a cathartic journey were the spectator is driven. So I would say that is the right measure through which all the elements and aspects of the performance are dialoging together. The simple and direct words of the workers with the poetic texts, the softness of a female voice with the rude orders, the cold setting with the warm living body of the performer, the social message with the poetics and the esthetics of arts.

Is social justice in theatre gaining resurgence? Somehow yes. Theatre is one of the less censored and controlled mean of communication in a mass media world where we are bombarded by news, amplified by the use of social networks, a new channel where many new revolutions where passing through. Theatre is able to recreate a community that can meet and discuss on social issues and problems. Especially in our new piece DESAPARECIDOS #43 about the 43 students who disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, we are exploring this power of theatre of asking for justice.

How did this go from an idea to a produced, touring art piece? It has been a long process started already in 2008. We have started to investigate the suggestion of the factory in general, in a universal way. First we were focusing on the effects that alienating working conditions could generate in a human being, in its body. We have explored the relationship between organic and not organic quality of acting incorporating rhythms, cyclic and repetitive movements and interacting with sounds, noises, live amplified voices video projections and lights, to discover the behavior of a body in such an environment. Then slowly we started to go from the general to the particular and the factory has taken a precise face and name: ILVA, a steel plant in the south of Italy, the biggest of Europe, a monster devastating the life of an entire city, Taranto, where Anna Dora, the director of the peace was born and grown up. So we have collected many witnesses from the workers and translated their stories into physical actions, texts, images, sounds and original music. In 2010 we started to work on these materials and to create the performance thanks to an artistic residency prize that was opening for us a long series of national and international awards. At that time nobody in Italy was talking about ILVA problems and the people barely know about the terrible situation the workers and the inhabitants of Taranto were living. We have received many political pressures and censorship in our country but finally the high level of the artistic work brought the show to be represented more and more, first in Italy, then in Sweden, in Spain, in Iran, and at the Edinburgh Fringe were MADE IN ILVA exploded like a bomb bouncing the ILVA case all over the world. In 2012 while we were for the first time representing the show abroad, in Stockholm, the scandal of ILVA was brought to the attention of the media generating a series of strikes and protests in Taranto and Italy. So in the exact moment the scandal of ILVA emerged our show was ready to tour. We felt we were anticipating the destiny of this case and somehow provoked the rebellion against unacceptable conditions of work in ILVA.

What should young people in Kolkata know about giving their justice concerns voice through theatre? As I was saying, even if we found resistances and tendencies of censoring our piece, we are basically in a country where is possible to express your ideas through arts. I guess that in India the situation could be different. But basically we should abandon the idea that theatre is only something traditional that should be respected and reproduced as it is or simply a form of entertainment and start to put our thoughts, worries, fears, dreams in the theatre we are searching for. Is a question of being brave and choose a way, that is not easy at all. Is a way going deep, questioning our identity and our role in the society we are living. It is a process that led to create new form of dramaturgy and original texts and to put in the poetic act of the performer something belonging to our life, history. To be here and now. To be a man of action.

Contributing Writer, Abhijit Ganguly, is an extensively published journalist based in Kolkata, India. His stories cover the global arts scene and the fusion arts movement with the culture and art of India. Ganguly’s work includes personal interviews with world renowned dance troupes, film directors, fine artists, sculptors, as well as jazz, hip hop and classical musicians. He is known for presenting an inside view of the artist's craft and what motivates their creativity. Ganguly also delves into the artist's take on what a young person in Kolkata can learn from each artist, so that the youth of the city can learn to master these skills.

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