Last night we saw the latest show by Dario Fo and Franca Rame. It is, still, a must for those who have loved their theater and research in popular Italian culture through centuries and can make it to Milan these days.

Beyond the pleasure of seeing again known jokes – jests or “giullarate”, mening acts by a “giullare”, a jester – it was great to involve some teen-agers in watching a milestone couple in Italian art, as well as a Nobel prize and a former Italian senator, perform live. A complex show to follow for them, especially with the extensive use of dialects to convey and reflect popular theater, hopefully helping them interpret and digest some features of their elders’ culture.

After 40 years’ performances, many jests are honed to perfection; only minor details and interludes are obviously improvised, if all the better for it. Interestingly, few carefully selected mentions to today’s Italian political discussion subjects enter the script. I found especially interesting – and valuable – that paedophilia was left out from updates of a show that has fiercely satirized popes and the practice of religion by church hierarchies. I guess the intended meaning is that some situations and behaviours are best challenged with sarcasm and jokes, others are best left to dead serious arguments.

An important final lesson comes from how these two actors and playwrights, both in their eighties, perform their most tried and tested, still quite demanding acts. As often happens with extremely experienced senior actors, it’s a careful balance, and all the more so as both the actors and many in the audience are aware that each episode is captured in various versions in dozens of video recordings. Yes, some sections had  been crisper, or fresher, or just clearer and funnier before. Of course, some displays of physical nimbleness and prowess are summarized, or hinted at, or skipped. Still, it’s amazing how Dario Fo and Franca Rame, like so many other senior citizens, can achieve in what they most love and know so much more than you would expect. It’s a welcome testament to the power of will and long practice and enthusiasm. It’s an invaluable gift to their public.

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