Participant profiles

Mario Pirovano

On 29th September 2010, and the Department of Italian (SLCS) organized a free worshop (in Italian) and a performance by Italian actor Mario Pirovano, a close collaborator of Dario Fo and Franca Rame. He conducted a workshop on his acting techniques, followed later with a performance of Mistero Buffo by Dario Fo – an initiative sponsored by the Italian Consulate in Manchester and the Italian Cultural Institute of London.

Mario Pirovano. Since 1983 Mario Pirovano has taken part in all the works produced by Dario Fo and Franca Rame either as an actor or as assistant producer, stage director or simultaneous translator. In 1987 with Fo and Rame he acted in the programme Forced Broadcast, shown in eight episodes on a national television channel (Rai3). The long years spent as an apprentice and his unique relationship with the Master make Pirovano not only the most proven interpreter of the theatre of Dario Fo, but also an impassioned and tireless popularizer of the style and language which have made Fo famous throughout the world and earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

“Mario Pirovano is a self-taught actor of great expressive quality. For years he came to listen to my performances and followed the lessons and demonstrations I gave to young actors. Eventually he had pumped me of all the tricks and “know-how” of the trade to the extent that he was capable of performing alone with great success. Personally I saw his performance at the University of Florence, faculty of Arts. I found him exceptional. Above all he didn’t take me off, he didn’t mimic me. He showed a vitality that was all his own, and the energetic inventiveness of a great story-teller.” Dario Fo (Florence, June 1991)

The play: a bit of history

The term ‘mystery’ was already used in the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. to indicate a religious play or spectacle. And so a comic mystery is a grotesque spectacle. It was the common people who invented it. Since the first centuries after Christ the people have amused themselves, and it was not just amusement, by ‘playing’, as it was called, in shows of an ironic/grotesque nature. The theatre in fact, especially the grotesque theatre, has always been the first means of popular expression and communication, but also of provocation and the stirring up of ideas. Jesters performed in market-squares, courtyards and sometimes even in churches. Together with the players of the “Commedia dell’Arte”, known as “comici dell’arte”, they were the inventors of the “grammelot”, a term of French origin coined by the buffoons, clowns and jesters.

These players made full use of grammelot gesturing, constrained by their situation as travellers in the midst of people speaking various languages, or by censorship laws which prohibited them from using language: they could at most mime or utter meaningless sounds. Stories from the tradition of those “comici dell’arte” have come down to us, telling us of the performances of the great exponents of grammelot.


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