Sunday, 11 September 2011

In Which There Is Theatre and Ian McKellen

A couple of months ago, when I first got my  season programme from Bath Theatre Royal, I saw that in September, Sir Ian McKellen would be here, playing in The Syndicate. So I bought a ticket. I didn't, at the time, know anything about the play, nor did I know it would be just before I was due to go on holiday to Italy...

The play is by Eduardo de Fillipo whose work I'm not familiar with, although I gather that to any Italian this would be unthinkable. The play, The Syndicate is set in Naples, in 1960, and follows Don Antonio, (Sir Ian McKellen)  his family and associates.

It is an interesting play - Don Antonio doesn't appear at the start - we see the rest of his household, and it becomes clear that he is a very powerful, much feared and respected man; the young man who has arrived in order to have a bullet removed from his leg is not able to stop shouting or crying out by appeals to his courage, but the warning that he might wake Don Antonio does the trick!

(Photo by Manuel Harlan, from Bath Theatre Royal website)
And it quickly becomes apparent that Don Antonio, although he is obviously a ruthless man, does have a conscience of sorts. He seeks to prevent vendettas, ("Next time you want to shoot somebody, you speak to me first") and steps in to prevent a loan-shark from pursuing his victim, but at the same time he makes clear to his friend and doctor Dottore Fabio Della Ragione (Michael Pennington) that should he leave, to go to America as he wishes, he will be killed. He also clearly has had a very murky past, among the mafia of New York "it involved bloodshed, of course. But nothing dishonourable"

The play revolves around Don Antonio's attempts to reconcile a father and son, in order to prevent the son from killing his father. There were excellent performances from Gavin Fowler as Rafiluccio Santaniello as the son, and Annie Hemingway as Rita, his (very pregnant) girlfriend and Ian McKellen was superb, managing to be very funny at times, but also to create a very real air of menace, and despite everything, to be a sympathetic character.

I felt Cherie Lunghi (Donna Armida Barracano, Don Antonio's wife) was a little wasted, as she had very little to do, and somehow the strong feeling of a close family which came across from the actors playing Don Antonio's daughter, sons and housekeeper didn't seem to extend to her, but over all there was a very strong cast, and while the play perhaps paints a somewhat rosy and optimistic view of mafia life it was very well done.

I'm glad I went. And I hope I don't meet anyone like Don Antonio and his associates when I'm in the Naples area this week!


spacedlaw said...

Mafia (Sicily) and Camorra (Naples) are different (think of it as different kingdoms) but I concur with your hop that you will not meet any member of either (although you would probably not notice).

Marjorie said...

I stand corrected! And I'm sure you're right about not noticing. I know when I lived in Manchester the gangs tended not to be much of a problem for bystnaders - they usually only shot each other!