Filippo Timi is a strange theatre beast indeed. An actor of power and fascination who attacks his projects fearlessly, careering from comedy to tragedy, from extreme campness to rugged masculinity, from classic to modern in his unique and utterly engrossing theatre creations.
His plays appear to be casual experiments: he throws in a bit of everything just to see what might happen. Timi knows exactly what will happen, but is masterful in giving his audience the impression that it is witnessing a one-off event. His corpsing – which is de rigueur, as are his sly winks at the audience to let them in on some secret – is probably identical night after night, but it seems unplanned and unexpected. His versatile voice wallows around in the lower octaves before shooting up with a screech from Bedlam, oh yes, and he can sing too. He kisses, passionately, anything on stage, male or female, and he gives all his fellow actors a thorough groping. He clambers up gratings, wears dresses… well you’ve got the idea: Timi is a virtuoso.
He can turn it down, but playing Mussolini in Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere, which represented Italy in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, is typical of the sort of role he can get his teeth into. But, surprisingly, he is also a stutterer. Rarely on stage, but when interviewed it would be painful to watch if he didn’t make fun of himself first. His Achilles’ heel was used in Ferzan Özpetek’s 2007 film Saturno contro (Saturn in Opposition) where he stutters his way through a small role, yet when he’s in front of a camera or an audience this magically doesn’t happen.
Timi bravely surrounds himself with a small team of excellent actors. This might sound normal, but unfortunately it is not so common on the Italian stage. They also, miraculously, maintain their concentration as Timi giggles around them. As you might have gathered, Amleto² is no normal Hamlet.
To get the most out of the in-jokes it’s best to have a knowledge of Shakespeare’s ‘original’. Hamlet’s warning to Orphelia to stay clear of water, the on-setting of madness revealed as he is convinced that behind the ‘fourth wall’ he can hear laughter, playing around with the original text, “To be or n-n-n-n-n… To be or n-n-n-n-n… (pause) …that is the question,” he stammers.
But it’s not all played for laughs. Luca Pignagnoli’s Laertes has tears on his cheeks as he observes the corpse of his sister, Lucia Mascino’s monologue as an ageing topless showgirl is courageous and touching. Before the curtain at the start we have a Mariyln-type blonde, as fragile and as desperate as Hamlet, who dreams of winning an Oscar. At the end of Amleto² she reappears, Oscar in hand, and in tragicomic vein tries to kill herself with it. The audience laughs as it cries.
In a time when tele-acting in theatres is the norm, it is refreshing to watch a lion leap on stage, claws bared, and roar. Italian theatre hasn’t had a personality like this since Vittorio Gassman, and there’s no better place for theatricality than in a theatre after all.
Teatro Franco Parenti, Milan
until 15 July 2012 – Amlet²
18-20 July2012 – Romeo & Juliet
26-31 July 2012 – Favola