Looking beyond the wallMario Martone
To take action in the degraded city areas seems to me of crucial importance. I can remember perfectly well how, in the eighties, I was amazed when I went to New York (with Falso Movimento we toured several years in a row). I noticed there were neighbourhoods that during the first year were completely out of bounds because they were forgotten and extremely dangerous. The next year artists were beginning to hang out there. The year after shops and restaurants began to appear, and shortly after people began to move in to live there. A fast-moving metropolis. I was struck by how Naples, instead, remained unchanged. City life was lived in the centre and only in the city centre, and in many aspects this is still the case today. As though an impenetrable wall was, and still is, there to divide the city. The poorer neighbourhoods are seen by the rest of the city only for their problems, never for the opportunities they offer. Therefore, it was a great surprise when I started collaborating closely with an organisation in San Giovanni a Teduccio, called Nest which is an abbreviation of Naples East Theatre. The east neighbourhoods of Naples: Scampia, Ponticelli, San Giovanni a Teduccio, places notorious for organised crime, the “reign” of the camorra, the squalor of many forgotten places. Forgotten was also the school until a group of young actors of the neighbourhood entered and took over the gym to create a theatre. Among these were Francesco Di Leva, Adriano Pantaleo, Giuseppe Gaudino. They involved a large number of people and local families, and Nest became in social terms, a very important avant-garde stronghold. Dozens of youngsters were rescued from a life which otherwise would have led exclusively to crime. What is most interesting to highlight, however, is that these actors are above all wonderful actors. Highly intelligent actors, with clear ideas on the contemporary sense of acting and theatre. It was with them I was able to investigate and experiment with the play Il Sindaco del Rione Sanità (The Mayor of the Sanità neighbourhood), first in the theatre and then with cinema. I was able to find a way to interpret Eduardo De Filippo without the fear of modernising the conventional framework which is usually used to stage this work. The “degraded” areas of the city therefore offered me an opportunity, and they offered it to the city centre too. When we performed the debut in San Giovanni, in this venue with one hundred seats, every evening, before the show, I asked the audience how many had set foot in San Giovanni before that day. Every evening several hands were raised to indicate it was their first visit. The distance between piazza del Plebiscito (where the San Carlo theatre is, to indicate what kind of district we are talking about) and Nest is a twenty minute drive, half an hour if you meet traffic. Even so, many people had never thought of going to see what existed beyond the wall. Well, beyond the wall is the city of the future. There are also the problems of the future, of course, but there are also possible solutions to deal with them. I have spoken about Naples, but I am convinced that what I say is valid for every big city, and very much so for Rome.