Dario Fo and Franca Rame by David Hirst (auth.)

By David Hirst (auth.)

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Outside the work of Giorgio Strehler and Dario Fo his influence has been little felt in Italy. Fo himself, however, is as much a mattatore as his celebrated contemporaries, even if his style of theatre is very different. Neither Britain nor America could ever have thrown up such a quintessentially Italian phenomenon. In another way too he is a part of a distinctively Italian theatre, which has always had a pronouncedly non-literary basis. You can count on the fingers of one hand the great international playwrights Italy has produced: there are just four - Goldoni, Pirandello, Eduardo de Filippo and Fo himself.

Before the Maniac is let loose on the police in his first proper disguise, Fo takes several cunning swipes at the judiciary by having the Maniac point out the irony of the fact that, whilst most workers are finished, pensioned off, at sixty, a judge at that age is just beginning his career: Take your lathe operator - touch of the shakes, couple of minor accidents, out to grass. Coal miner, bit of silicosis and he's fucked at fifty .... But the frailer and feebler judges get, the more they are elevated to superior and powerful positions.

She has always starred with Fo and has been responsible for the administration of their company. But, since the appearance of her monologues collected under the title Tutta casa, letto e chiesa (It's All Home, Bed and Church known in Britain as Female Parts), which was first seen in 1977 and revised in 1981 (the version familiar in Britain), she has brought women's issues more urgently to the fore in the partnership. In 1977 she said, Before our retreat from the official theatre circuit my characters, the female characters created by Dario, were in effect decorative, hangers on, though they had their say and argued about things albeit in a mad sort of way.

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