freely adapted from lo cunto de li cunti
by Giambattista Basile
written and directed by Emma Dante
with Carmine Maringola, Salvatore D’Onofrio
stage and costume designer Emma Dante
lighting Cristian Zucaro
assistant to production Daniela Gusmano
production Festival di Spoleto 60, Teatro Biondo di Palermo
in collaboration with Atto Unico / Compagnia Sud Costa Occidentale
coordination and distribution Aldo Miguel Grompone, Roma
"Oh, Valentine, a favor," said Maximilien, "your little finger, that I may kiss it through these boards!"
Valentine got on a bench, and passed, not the little finger through the opening, but the whole hand over the fence. Maximilien emitted a cry, and climbing on the fence with a leap, grabbed that adored hand, and imprinted his burning lips on it; but immediately the small hand slipped out of his, and the young man heard Valentine flee, perhaps scared about that feeling unknown to her.
"The Count of Monte Cristo" Alexandre Dumas
Lo cunto de li cunti/The tale of tales or lo trattenimiento de peccerille/Entertainment for little ones, also known with the title Pentamerone (five days), is a collection of fifty tales related over the course of five days. Inspired by popular folk tales, Giambattista Basile creates a fascinating and sophisticated world starting from the bottom. The Neapolitan dialect of his characters, enhanced with slang expressions, popular proverbs and outbursts, produces forms and ways that are explicitly theatrical with gags from the commedia dell’arte and Shakespearian dialogues.
Like a metric score, Basile’s language seeks out the truth without sacrificing the highly ornate Baroque writing.
La scortecata is the trattenimiento decemo de la iornata primma/Tenth entertainment of the first day and narrates the story of a King who falls in love with the voice of an old woman, who lives in a shack with her older sister. The king, fooled by the finger shown through the keyhole, invites her to sleep with him. But after intercourse, realizing that he had been deceived, he has her thrown out of the window. The old woman does not die, but is left dangling from a tree. A fairy goes by and with a spell turns her into a beautiful young woman, and the King takes her as his wife.
What we see is an empty scene where two men are entrusted with the female roles as in the eighteenth-century theater tradition, which dramatizes the tale with their embodying the two old women and the King. There are simply two chairs to represent the entrance to a ground floor lodging, a door to enter and exit the shack and a miniature castle to evoke the dream.
The two old women, alone and homely, can hardly tolerate being together yet cannot live one without the other. In order to pass the time of their miserable life, they enact the tale with humor and vulgarity, and when the ending is not the fateful "and they lived happily ever after..." the youngest, ninety-nine, asks to be shaken so that her old skin can leave her to reveal her new skin.
The morale: the terrible vice of females to look attractive drives them to excesses, so that to gild the frame of their forehead, they spoil the outline of their face; to whiten their outer skin they ruin the bones of their teeth and to give light to their limbs they cover their sight with darkness. But, if a maiden who is excessively frivolous deserves to be reproached, an old woman who wants to compete with her daughters is even more worthy of punishment as she is reprimanded by the people and ruins herself.