An Interview with Alessandro Onorato
A ‘crazy’ Italian ‘sex drama’ is flying into the Fringe this August
Hello Allessandro, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Rome, Italy, but I moved to Milan aged 5. I’ve been moving quite a lot during the years, and left Italy several times, but now I’m set back in Milan, where I work with my two theatre groups “Avanzate Idee Teatrali” and “i Birbanti”
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
It all started when I was quite young, my parents took me quite often to see some comedies and musicals when we were abroad. It was always close to a dream for me. Then it suddenly started: they asked me to write a play, I was 17, I have never stopped since then. I never thought I’d direct a play, but it became the best part of my life quite fast.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
I would say 4 things overall: the play, the director’s concept, the cast and the rhythm. Today the latter has become crucial: it’s always harder to keep the audience attention to a high level, and a strong rhythm becomes fundamental. It’s a hard task: but if you keep them all very far from the temptation to look at the smartphone for one hour it’s already a success. We live in a world where people like more to watch a 10 seconds story on Instagram than anything else and consider a youtube video of 10 min too long. As authors or directors we need to face reality and make our works as strong in rhythm as possible.
Italy has a rich cultural tradition – what has inspired you the most, & why?
I feel quite ashamed, but honestly I’ve never worked on a play written by an Italian author. Maybe we always have the feeling that what happens abroad is always more interesting, sometimes it’s true but sometimes not. I grew up reading English and American plays. But for novels I am still close to my country: Stefano Benni, Alessandro Baricco and Isabella Santacroce above all – and all contemporary by the way.
What is the theatre scene like in modern Rome?
Rome is quite sleepy at the moment, cinema moves faster, and theatre is still quite too much underground and self-referenced, with a few good exceptions. Milan is moving much better and much faster, and has really reached an impressive level on the drama and comedy side. Unluckily, it’s not able to reach massive and international audiences and is still quite weak on some kind of shows, such as musicals. In the last 5-10 years we started to organize our festivals – that is a good step.
You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
“The Last King of Porn” tells the story of a porn actor performing his last record-breaking movie: a sex marathon over a full day with 100 women. As the most important people of his life meet, we discover that the movie they are shooting is actually a snuff one, as the actor decided to kill himself during the performance. The atmosphere moves in short time from sexy to an anxiety-filled thrilling situation, where the attendees are not who they seem to be and hidden interests by his relatives come out. It’s an explicit drama about sex, love, family, suicide and much more. When I started writing the play I thought it could have been a good chance to dig inside all the dirt that lies behind the world of porn and show it, but then this actually was not enough. The women that spend hours talking, that at the beginning are recognisable only by numbers, waiting for their turn to participate to this sex marathon, confront themselves about their lives, discussing about sex, love and family, and actually show up as knowing each other pretty well.
Where, when & why did the concept of “The Last King of Porn” originate?
It all started by reading, as it always happens for me. I read even 4-5 books at the same time, over 50-60 a year, depends. The biography of the porn star Asa Akira made me start to think it would have been interesting to write a play set in the world of porn – then the inspiration arrived after Chuck Palahniuk’s “Gang Bang” novel. At first I thought about writing an on-stage version of the book. Later I changed my mind and re-wrote the story in a completely different key, with a male actor as leading role (in Italy male porn stars are more famous than female ones) and massively changed characters and the story itself. But the directing idea was still missing – so I left the pages on the shelf for over two years, when at last the idea came: to divide the stage in two and play with shadows: it was after witnessing a Giavanese Wayang Kulit performance, and I thought to translate it into my work throughout an innovative space design.
How do you translate such an x-rated subject to the stage – is it gratuitous or tactful, or a blend of both?
Such a crazy story could live only in the world of porn. I tried to do it in the least aggressive way as possible. The play is for a mature public – for the themes and for the sex scenes shadow-shown – but does not contain nudity nor violence, since sex and deaths are happen only behind the shadow-sheet. And it goes way beyond porn. The theme of orphanage and abandon is quite persistent, and a hidden moral comes out obsessively: one wrong choice can change an entire life, as only one single moment destroyed the life of all these characters.
You have assembled quite a talented cast, can you tell us about them?
I am very proud of my team. We all work together for the first time but chemistry was immediate. Gaia Magni, who co-directs the play with me, is also an author and director of several awarded plays, and made an amazing work with the girls: Sara Dho; Paolo Grassi graduate, who also worked for the Greek theatre of Siracusa; Alessandra Salvoldi, from Odin Teatre, actress in several shows, plays, tv commercials and music clips; Laura Traina, who acts in some of the most prestigious theatres in Milan such as Franco Parenti and Out Off, and also worked for Asia Argento; plus the performers Claudia Campani and Claudia Veronesi. But I cannot forget the boys! This big cast sees on stage also Alberto Baraghini, who starred in movies such as “L’abbandono”, “Maxi” and “il Caso Pantani” and several web-series and Stefano Iagulli, graduated Nico Pepe, who worked in several productions all around Europe, and also performed at the Podium Festival in Moscow.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Hey! Want to see something veeery different from all the other shows around? The Last King of Porn! A crazy sex drama. Want to lose it?
What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
As soon as our days in the UK will be over we’ll finally bring our show to our hometown in Milan in September and go for a small tour in northern Italy later on. The group will later split up for other works that don’t see us working together, as myself, I’ll be on stage with the “Macbeth” with the group “i Birbanti”. We are working to close the year with a replica of “The last King of Porn” in Rome. For the future, I am thinking to move back to comedy after this sex drama
Greenside @ Infirmary Street
Aug 2-17 (21:50)