By the early 'eighties, Dario Fo seemed to have achieved a unique place in British theatre, with both Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! enjoying long West End runs, while he himself retained the respect of the alternative and fringe community for his radical politics and championship of popular theatre forms.Yet although he was subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, interest in Fo's work seems to have gone into a steady decline in Britain. This is only in part attributable, argues Marco Ghelardi, to a less favourable political and theatrical climate: it has also to do with the topicality and adaptability which is integral to Fo's approach to playwriting, and more especially with an acting style apparently inimical to British traditions - a style based in the collective and the situational rather than the individual and the psychological(Behan 2000 ). Marco Ghelardi is a young playwright, director, and producer whose career has involved him in both the British and Italian traditions. He has also been an assistant director in opera (notably at Covent Garden), and with his theatre company, Outlaw Theatre, he has recently managed to bring a Fo production, Johan Padan and the Discovery of America, back to the Riverside in London, where it opened in May of this year.
Dario Fo and Theatrical practitioner
We need to address the reasons for a gradual eclipse of Fo from the British stage which began in the mid-1990s and which continues, despite the expectation that the conferring of a Nobel Prize might have increased public attention and audience numbers. Fo enjoyed a huge commercial success in the early 1980s, thanks to productions of Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! (Derrida 1994 pp. 45-49), only to undergo increasing neglect and a poor production history. There are many different reasons for this, of course, but the main problem, the first that we have to solve, relates to what we can define as the climate or mentality of the period in question. In 1980-82, the peak years for Dario Fo in Britain, which paved the way for him to come to the Riverside Studios in 1983, British theatre was still enjoying the wave of socialist playwrights which emerged out of the 1968 explosion, an explosion which, thanks to the removal of censorship, involved politics as much as theatre. The 1970s was the great decade of Hare, Brenton, Edgar, Griffiths, of McGrath's 7:84, of Red Ladder, of dozens of small touring companies whose new style in theatre went along with a commitment in politics. It was within this climate that Fo's plays were received, and enjoyed a sensitive response from audiences. The 1990s were different. Playwrights such as Ravenhill, Cartwright, Kane, Marber, who focused on stories with strong sexual overtones around private existences, were the leading attractions of theatrical London, alongside alternative theatre companies which mainly played on an aesthetic of pure forms(Fo 1977 pp.56).
Politics were no longer in the forefront of theatrical output: classics such as Brecht or Gorky were enjoyed despite the political message they contain. Theatre simply reflected the change in society and culture at large. In between the two, a period of crisis had occurred, which involved not only Britain but western society at large - a general crisis of politics, with a decline in commitment and a growing ...