Full-on moves to tell factory story
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by Margaret Chrystall
IT’S not easy being one man on stage portraying the toxic world of life in one of the world’s most polluting factories.
Italian performer Nicola Pianzola is the man who takes on the huge physical challenge of powering multi award-winning Italian production Made In ILVA which comes to Eden Court today (Friday).
It proved a hit at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and reviews talk about Nicola’s highly physical performance as one of the show’s big strengths.
Inspired by factory life at the former state-owned ILVA steelworks in the city of Taranto in the south of Italy, Made In ILVA uses dance, text, light, stage design and music to tell its story.
Anna Dora Dorno, director and co-founder with Nicola of Bologna theatre company Instabili Vaganti, comes from Taranto herself and began to start planning Made In ILVA in 2008, wanting to talk about the difficult and dangerous work life in the world’s third biggest polluting factory for dioxin emissions.
Nicola said: "Anna was born in Taranto, lived there for many years and all the members of her family, relatives and friends had worked in this factory.
"We started collecting all their stories about the factory, but it was only in 2012 that there was a big scandal about it in Italy. At that time we were performing our show in Sweden.
"I remember a journalist in Stockholm asked me about the story of our ILVA show — he thought it was a fanstasy, an invention.
"I told him ‘No, unfortunately it is the truth’."
Though the factory has closed, the story remains.
"Our government placed industry in the south because that was a depressed area with no jobs for the people who lived there. Taranto is a fantastic place with an inner sea where they grew mussels, but now the area is completely destroyed and contaminated by ILVA.
"I think it’s a problem that you can’t solve because there is no possible solution. ILVA employed nearly 20,000 people, so it is a problem for our government and a very delicate situation.
"Many politicians there have lost their popularity because they were involved in trying to sort out the situation.
"But things are changing little by little, though I think ILVA will be something belonging to our industrial history for a long long time.
"But in the show, ILVA is just a name appearing at the end.
"It could be about any other factory – we are not talking about names and numbers and dates and details."
Nicola is keen that people see beyond the ILVA situation which first inspired the show.
"ILVA is our factory in Italy – but the production is about factories in general and all the bad working conditions in the world."
The show is subtitled "The Contemporary Hermit" and Nicola explained.
"It’s the story of the worker, the modern-day hero who is always entrapped in the working day and bad conditions, but survives.
In one review, the critic wrote: "Pianzola gives his all".
Does Nicola find the role exhausting?
"It is very tough physical work," he admitted. "It is based on some extreme action, sometimes acrobatic and fast — and there is a lot of repetition."
Among the stories and witness accounts that Anna and Nicola gathered, he tells this one.
"There is a terrible but interesting story about workers at the ILVA factory who were making protests and then were sent by the manager to other buildings – not in the factory, but in offices where they had nothing to do all day.
"Some of them — after years — started to report problems and mental diseases, some went to the asylum, others tried to commit suicide because that was very strong violence to do to someone who wanted to work.
"They had just been asking for better conditions.
"Of course, we are not telling this in the performance because that uses the physical languages of theatre with the body, the voice, lights, sound and music.
"But we are trying to embody these stories.
"Our way is not just speaking the text to tell the story, but also speaking with the body."
The production will tour India and Mexico this autumn and Nicola says they continue to try to tour the show in Italy.
"At the Fringe premiere in Edinburgh last year, the director of the Institute of Culture in Edinburgh — who is supporting the show in Inverness — stood up after the performance and said ‘I am very proud of this because we have to accept that Italy is also this’.
"Sometimes it’s not easy for us to perform in Italy because not all the politicians are pleased and happy that we are doing this show, especially abroad, because they are afraid we are giving a bad image of our country.
"But we are doing the opposite — we are giving the image of high quality theatre."
Made In Ilva: The Contemporary Hermit is at Eden Court tonight (Friday, May 29).
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