An amazing “ROMEO and JULIET” at Piccolo Teatro Strehler, Milan

By Cesare Zucca
Stage photos by Masiar Pasquali

What if Romeo and Juliet were two teenagers of today?
There are over forty film versions of Romeo and Juliet, with the first in 1900.
The 1936 version was one of Hollywood’s most important classics. Irving Thalberg spared no expense, and cast his wife, Norma Shearer, in the lead role. The film West Side Story, inspired by Romeo and Juliet with music by Leonard Bernstein, won 10 Oscars.
In 1968 Franco Zeffirelli directed the film which won two Oscars.
Abel Ferrara made his film “China Girl” stages the Shakespeare’s tragedy. in New York, making a noir reinterpretation of the story, played by an Italian pizza chef and the sister of a Chinese mafia boss.
The 1996 film Romeo + Juliet by William Shakespeare, directed by Baz Luhrmann, gave a turnaround. Despite the contemporary setting (it takes place in Verona Beach, between gangsters and neon lights, starring  Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

The greatest love story ever told needed an exceptional narrator and it found him in one of the greatest, creative and innovative Italian directors and screenwriters: Mario Martone to whom we owe  the direction of “Qui rido io”, “Nostalgia”, “The mayor of the Sanità district”, “Il Giovane Favoloso” , “Capri-Revolution” “We believed” “Death of a Neapolitan mathematician”
His movies have been awarded with the most prstigious prices, such as Nastro d’Argento , Venice  Film Festival Coppa Volpi, and the David of Donatello (the Italian Oscar
) as well as his memorable “cinematic” directions of major operas including “La Traviata”, “La Boheme”, “The Barber of Seville”

The spectacular staging of “La Traviata”

Martone, is one without a doubt, one of the greatest and most innovative Italian minds, both in ciinema, theater and opera, never afraid of challenging classics masterpieces.
For his first time directing a play at the Piccolo Teatro Strehler in Milano , Martone

At the heart of the text is love, as sudden and intense as it can be between two adolescents, and rendered even stronger by adversity, with a driving urge to cancel any obstacle that stands in its way. It is a fable, with all the trimmings – magic potions, the trials of the two lovers, exile, the main character’s allies and enemies, the arranged marriage, duels but without the happy ending.
More than four centuries later, the themes of the work are significantly central to our daily lives: “We present a world ruled by senseless conflict, in which the very meaning of existence appears to lie in conflict – explains Martone -. A plague that renders the delivery of a letter impossible, while people continue to party. An innocent and rebellious love that suddenly emerges to escape all of this. A love illuminated exclusively by the light of the moon and of the dawn, with only the birds to witness it. Nature, ever present, awaiting a change that will never come”.
For his version of this extremely popular work that has been revisited for the theatre, cinema, opera and ballet, Martone has chosen a company of young actors accompanied by a number of theatrical professionals.


It’s  a contemporary story  of  a sudden love,, a story of two teenagers, made even stronger by adversity, eager only to break down any obstacle to its own realisation..
The scenography  is a sort of tree that crosses the stage and on which the actors move, suspended as if on the branches of a forest, while the ground takes us to an urban suburb, perfect scenario for the fightings between metropolitan gangs.






The encounter of two worlds and two generations
The underground one of a suburb frequented by hooligans and bitter enemy gangs ready to sneer in the duel while on the raised floor, well defended by the mighty branches of a gigantic tree, there is a world populated by rich families, parties, music and smiles.
It is strange to see how finally the world above reaches the world below; just the corpse of Juliet that flies from the upper world to the one below underlining a fall of her towards a hell where she, instead of finding peace and reuniting with her beloved Romeo, she will instead find tragedy
I would like to anticipate a particularly unexpected moment during the preparations for the presumed wedding between Juliet and Paris of the presumed wedding where the band with a pure Roman accent discusses the pay and, encouraged tio play the popular cheesy  song “Felicità” (happiness).
The cast
30 actors from different generations: two very young protagonists: Francesco Gheghi as Romeo and Anita Serafini as Juliet, Alessandro Bay Rossi, as a great Mercuzio, the flamboyant Licia Lanera as Juliet’s aunt (Licia Lanera). the icy mother Capuleti Lucrezia Guidone, (Gabriele Benedetti), a clumsy Padre Lorenzo, and a remarkable  Father Capuleti (Michele Di Mauro) as Capuleti Father

And this alternation of dramatic moments to lines deliberately light and provocative jokes, First of all those of Juliet’s longtime baby sitter who in Martone’s version has become the Aunt Angelica

Founded on 14 May 1947 by Giorgio Strehler, Paolo Grassi and Nina Vinchi, the Piccolo Teatro di Milano was the first public Italian repertory theatre to be established and is the most important both in Italy and abroad.
The Piccolo manages three auditoriums: the original location renamed Piccolo Teatro Grassi, the Teatro Studio experimental space that also houses the School of Theatre and finally the main theatre with 968 seats, which was inaugurated in 1998 and which bears the name of Piccolo Teatro Strehler. In more than seventy years of activity, the Piccolo has produced approximately 400 shows, half of which were directed by the great Director Giorgio Strehler,

Today’s Romeo and Julie: Anita and Francesco

How to describe this extraordinary play?
A senseless hatred, a young and rebellious love witnessed only by nature, an epidemic that follows unclear rules; this reading by Mario Martone highlights a number of surprising points of contact between Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and our present.

The Cast

Last night was the last performance at Piccolo of Martonei’s Romeo and Juliet and I really hope that this excellent piece of art would return not only to the Piccolo’s stage but would travel to enchant many other Italian and foreign theatres,
Want to know the reason?
Because is a story that speaks to everybody, excites,
amaze and conquers from the moment of the first lovers encounter, to the hidden marriage to the tragic end.
And above all that, it still makes us dream

Mario Martone tra i suoi giovani attori Francesco Gheghi (Romeo) e Anita Serafini (Giuietta)

Piccolo Teatro Strehler

CESARE ZUCCA Travel, food & lifestyle.
Milanese by birth, Cesare lives between New York, Milan and the rest of the world where he photographs and writes about cities, cultures,, entertainment. He likes to discover both traditional and innovative gastronomic delights among meeting and interviewing top chefs from all over the world, ‘steals’ their recipes in a ”
non touristy tourist ” style 




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