Purgatorio, local residents discuss the construction of a collective work
This was not simply a participatory event – it was a journey that made every citizen an integral part of Dante's work.
This was the intention behind 'Purgatorio, a Public Call for 'Divina Commedia, by Dante Alighieri', and this is what it turned out to be. The performance was produced by the Teatro delle Albe and directed by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari, and involved not just IAC actors from Ravenna and Matera, but above all hundreds of local people. The idea behind the entire project was to construct a performance that would deal with the present, one that aimed to engage with what is happening today. When they took on this colossal work, Martinelli and Montanari decided to make use of to two distinct, yet complementary, theatrical traditions: sacred mediaeval events and the Russian people's theatre of the early twentieth century. It was this approach that provided the power behind the process, and which made it possible to go beyond the classic concept of participation, which can sometimes be bound to what is almost a deliberately amateurish approach, and to attain a fusion between the work and the citizens.
Purgatorio was built around local residents in such a way that they became a vital part of it, and without them it would have had no reason to exist.This is why it was essential to follow the protagonists of the process, to understand their hopes and emotions, and finally to be able to appreciate their development. Four local people of different sexes, ages and origin decided to tell their stories and to have them told during the construction of this collective performance. What emerges from the words of Tiziana, Maurizio, Antonella e Claudio, who joined hundreds of other citizens as part of the chorus of Purgatorio, is the explosive power of chorality, and at the same time the sometimes therapeutic function of the theatre, which has given our protagonists a serene new kind of awareness.