So Dario Fo has died. He is one of the giants of European theatre in the twentieth century, a standing counter to any of the boring arguments that political theatre is worthily dull and just preaches to the converted. Dario Fo reached an absolutely vast popular audience with his extraordinary mixture of farce, mime, comedy, and revolutionary politics. He played sports arena; he got an audience of 20 million on TV; he was excoriated by the Vatican, undermined by the right-wing secret police, adored by millions; he shocked Italy's stuffy literary culture all over again in 1997 by winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a performer and a playwright and the two were indissociable; he wrote his best plays by performing them.
I was asked to go on Radio 4's Last Word to talk about him. Me and Griff Rhys-Jones (who starred in Trumpets and Raspberries (1984) [Clacson, trombette e pernacchi, 1981]. It came out quite well, except please ignore my fumbled suggestion that Fo did not want to put himself in the tradition of Molière. Of course he did. But anywayyou can listen to it here.
And if that whets your appetite, click the video at the top to watch the first half of his fantastic performance, 'Pope Boniface VIII'. It's in Italian, but you'll understand it. Boniface was a thirteent-century pope, viciously corrupt and violent, hated by many, including Dante who in Inferno put him in hell before he'd even died. In this scene, Boniface is getting dressed in his papal regalia, bullying his altar boys. In the second half of the scene, Christ returns, and Boniface quickly but feebly tries to divest himself of his finery to curry favour with him.