Playwright Dario Fo's Archangels Don't Play Pinball debuts in Taiwan tonight under Canadian director Inouk Touzin. The readings tonight and tomorrow at the Living Room promise to showcase Fo's momentous equation of comedy, satire and a healthy poke at modern civilization.
Archangels is the radical and philosophical slapstick comedy that catapulted Italian playwright and activist Fo to international fame when it was published and staged in 1959. Although Archangels is one of Fo's earliest works, the "Grand Alchemist" and winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize is at his best in this play.
The reading will be Touzin's 15th production, but will be the first production in Taiwan for the workshop leader and Francophone and Anglophone theater director. Touzin said he went play-hunting as soon as he spoke with the Living Room and found they were open to a collaboration. During his search, he realized Archangels would be perfect for a reading. He said, "I was laughing alone in the book store and people were staring, but I knew then that an audience would really appreciate it."
In Archangels, Fo and his collaborator and wife Franca Rame draw on traditions such as commedia dell'arte, puppetry, clowning, the Italian mafia and folk tales, and meanwhile have subjected every institution, political party, power broker, corrupt organization, and controversial law to their formidable satirical powers.
Touzin says one of the reasons to attend the reading is to have a good laugh. "There are many types of humor. From slapstick, to repetition, to situational humor, to wordplay -- it's all there."
Touzin chose to use Archangels' most recent translation, a version by Ron Jenkins, to present the tale of Lanky, a petty criminal living on his wits and thwarted by his own band of petty thieves. The story follows Lanky as he tries to go straight but struggles to survive in a system of hookers, bureaucrats and con men in Milan's underworld.
One of Fo's most comedic farces, Archangels dares to address civilization as gangsterism. Lanky's story is about his dream of social ascension, from the lowly petty thief, or dog, to a politician.
"I think many Taiwanese people can identify with Lanky in the sense that life here often consists of working hard, fitting in and following the rules," Touzin said.
Rules are one of the many things Fo pokes fun at. In order for Lanky to collect his pension, for example, he makes five clerks stamp their way through a mountain of falsification during the cheeky Bureaucrat Song.
"The entire play -- the whole journey -- is a dreaming," said Touzin, "an awakening." Touzin explains that many Fo plays focus on one dynamic character, but "This one's different in that the characters that follow around Lanky represent society, and the pressures it puts on people.
"The dream pursues him throughout the play, not the other way around."
Archangels culminates in a manic and unexpected finale about the madness of man, [and] the resultant madness that unchecked bureaucracy brings.
What: Reading of the play Archangels Don't Play Pinball by Dario Fo, directed by Inouk Touzin
Where: Taipei, The Living Room, 8 Nanjing East Rd, Sec 5, 3rd floor
When: Tonight and tomorrow at 9pm
Cast: Inouk Touzin, Phillip Charlier, Mark Perrault, Jennie Miller, Taka Nagano, Marcus Van, Zach Touzin