Theatrical: ‘Pasolini’s Salo redubbed’

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Tonight – for the third time in a week – I was at the theatre, this time to see ‘Pasolini’s Salo redubbed’ at the Peacock. Another show from the Dublin Theatre Festival.

‘Salò’ is a 1975 horror art film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini and is an adaptation of the book ‘The 120 days of Sodom’ by the Marquis de Sade set during the 2nd world war.  The film is about four wealthy, corrupt Italian libertines living in the fascist republic of Salo,(1943–1945). The libertines kidnap eighteen teenagers and subject them to four months of violence, murder, sadism and sexual and mental torture. The film is about corruption, murder, abuse of power, sadism, perversion, and fascism. It was no doubt banned in Ireland on release, and remains banned in Australia.

Writer and director Dylan Tighe has redubbed the film into the English language, changed the story to be situated in Ireland, and has seven actors onstage  acting the parts of the characters. while the film plays on the big screen above their heads.

He believes that there are parallels between fascism and the institutional abuse of vulnerable people by the church, state and family since the foundation of the state. As these are areas that have been deeply explored already, he adds consumerism a a new toxic evil for the country into the mix.

It’s quite unlike any piece of theatre I have ever seen. This is not necessarily a good thing though. Tighe appears onstage at the start and plays Pasolini giving his reasoning for the film resonating with Ireland. He does this in Italian, while his words are placed as subtitles on the video screen of Pasolini being interviewed. He talks up a storm – to the point where I started to nod off. Reading subtitles is not a favourite pastime while at a live show. It was quite the pretentious affectation. Artwankery even.

The film itself is as gruesome and grotesque as you’d expect for such a notorious piece. The actors onstage sit at tables and give committed performances of the adaptation which is meant to now be set in a state run institution in Sligo.

They touch all the subjects beloved of the woke. It’s not entirely convincing as their words don’t quite gel with the perverted and insane carry on above their heads onscreen.

Having the actors read testimony of victims of clerical abuse; and reading the names of refugees recently killed in Europe from a list is not as powerful as I think they imagine. I was struggling to see the point.

It’s just all so utterly bizarre.

I won’t say that I hated it. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it either though. It’s not nearly as clever as it lets on to be, and uses the controversial film as a revolting shock tactic. I am not sure what I am meant to be shocked by though. And this play doesn’t really offer any new perspectives on the state of the nation. Ireland has a dark history and present. Talk about stating the obvious in a very unsubtle way.

It tries its damnedest to be experimental – and in many ways it is – the whole device of  having a coherent plot is discarded for example.

Having said all that however, I found myself quite enjoying it. The film itself is quite something. When I stopped trying to decipher what the whole point of the piece was, I could just sit back, relax and enjoy the utter ludicrousness of it all. When viewed as a black comedy it works far better.

‘Pasolini’s Salo redubbed’ runs until October 5th. Grab your popcorn and enjoy artwank at its most strident.

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