Tutto Bene, Mamma? at The Print Room
This is theatre better experienced without knowing too much beforehand, approached in all ways in the dark as the small world it creates gets smaller and more claustrophobic, and events are revealed purely through sound. The audience is led into the space by ushers, and taken to seats already plunged in darkness. We never see the cast, and their images do not even appear in the programme.
A mother and her son play out an extraordinary drama in a small flat, the only visitors a boorish boyfriend and phone calls from the son’s grandmother and teacher. The boy is really too young to know much of what is going on around him, and reacts as a child when events sink out of control. Tutto Bene, Mamma? translates as “Is everything going to be alright, Mummy?” and it’s not giving away too much to say that, no, everything is not going to be alright.
The darkness becomes more relevant to the plot as the play continues, almost becoming an extra character. As the cast refer to the dark, it is suggested that it is not the blackout itself that is frightening, but what people may do within it. Other metaphors in the play are revealed through the young boy’s understanding, and it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to witness this ruination of a soul.
The setting of Milan is suggested outside the theatre space, with the entrance from the street draped in washing hanging from the ceiling, and upstairs in the gallery are photographs of the city. We don’t see the tourist version, but the more down-at-heel, crowded, apartments-on-top-of-each-other Milan, which we also hear in the background throughout most of the play, making the isolation of the drama more extraordinary by contrast.
This is a translation into English by April de Angelis from the Italian play by Gloria Mina, and a UK premier. The cast have to convey a range of subtlety and emotion in their voices alone, and the part of the boy is played with such authentic skill that it may haunt for a long time.
If you like theatre to challenge your senses you will find this to be a memorable and worthwhile ordeal.
Tutto Bene, Mamma? is at The Print Room until 6th July 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Tutto Bene, Mamma? here: