The Decameron 2.0 breaks free from Boccaccio’s structural narrative; its stories are no longer enclosed within a frame. The peste (our plague) represents life’s crude reality, the bare essence of survival and the inherent malady of living. It is also, in some way, the death of the sacred, of the soul. The peste isn’t fought outright, but quietly evaded: by creating a parallel narration that refrains from telling the untellable, by telling a story that provides relief, founded in an alternate reality, a refuge that speaks to our desire for the mystical. Man today seeks to realize himself in this dimension of non-reality. The current territory of personal realization is a virtual territory that has been dislodged from the real needs of both the individual and the collective in society. Social success has become a form of mystification, whether it is sought out or forced upon us. Failure has become the failure to tell a good story, to narrate a convincing tale of who we are and why we are here.
The Decameron 2.0 rediscovers the poetical dimension of the original work, Boccaccio’s masterpiece, that with an acute sense of irony and a dark lucidity speaks to our consciences, cutting through to the truth of things, the heart of the matter, and seeing reality face to face, without ever losing hope in the human potential for greatness, strength and beauty.
Boccaccio tells us that he has written the Decameron for women, for it is they who, in the long hours of inflicted solitude are more inclined to vagaries and depression, and it is they who are in most need of an escape, of entertainment. This passive aspect of the feminine, or the effeminate, seeks a refuge from reality, and wallows in the realms of indecision due to a lack of real power over one’s self, a lack of authority, and an inability to see or recount oneself, one’s true self, or any truth at all, inevitably leading to an overpowering emptiness and falsity.
Decameron 2.0 is a poetic mirror that narrates this sense of modern vagary. What Boccaccio chooses to tell us is a secular fable in which the sacred is replaced by human misery but also by human cunning and strength, where the monstrum pervades and regenerates itself in our daily life.
Compassion comes first and foremost in the human experience and is what nurtures the spirit of mankind and allows a collective dimension to emerge within each of us, realistic and virtuous, ecstatic and complex, free and liberating with which to reconstruct a collective story.
Unuquisque est fortuna suae… We are the masters of our own destinies, by collaborating with “fortuna” itself that undoubtedly exists, whatever it is, and becoming its ally. An absence of magic, a lack of imagination, a limit to the idea of the ‘happy ending’, and a real disillusion are just the starting points. It is from that sacred essence of the real that we restart, the way Giotto begins with the colour of the sky in order to tell us that our spirits are nourished by what really is, by life itself.
The Decameron’s original rigid story structure will be dissolved into a new composition: the novels and its characters, and some of the plots, will appear from as scenic occurrences, images that are invoked by memory or dreams, as well as in transposed and symbolic form.
The original writing of the words spoken, sung or projected, i.e. everything that is not by Boccaccio, is a composition by Theodora Delavault written in the libretto format and interspersed with short paragraphs of prose or poetry that form the heart of our contemporary interpretation. The ‘voice’ of the narration is founded in an extreme realism where its ‘flow of consciousness’ style narrates the internal, subjective emotional worlds of the various characters using a personal and internal voice that is also an impersonal extra-diegetic one. A permanent confrontation with Boccaccio’s language runs alongside the live performance with the actresses Monica Piseddu and Monica Demuru who will recite the classical Decameron text in video projections.
The musical sources used will be philological, dating back to the 13th Century (ballads, cacce (hunts) and first madrigals) these materials will be ‘ruminati’ and recomposed into original musical compositions by composer Yannis Kyriakides and guitarist Andy Moor, live. Their presence on stage will be an important part of the performance. Two significant arias will be sung by the Belgian soprano Lore Binon, whose performance will be on video. Interviews and appearances of well-known Decameron characters such as Guido Cavalcanti, Federigo Degli Alberighi, Lisabetta da Messina and Cisti Fornaio will also be contemporary transpositions inserted into this new multimedia context.
“La peste” is our starting point with which to explore the contemporary conscience. Fear of the carnal in favour of the virtual, the filtered, the false. Extreme interconnectedness leading to the decay of genuine human ties with which to confront tragedy, death. Human misery is unmasked, and laid bare.
What is this perennial yearning, and desperate longing, or in Italian “vagheggiamento” that women are afflicted with, if it is not the product of their own wild imaginations, their “forza immaginifica”? Outside of the threshold of ordinary narration, the material will be subdivided into an ‘expansive’ iconography that stems from pre-renaissance images (codes, frescoes, pales) expanding on them by using new perspectives and technologies: the live camera underlines the on-scene presence, while the ‘social network’ videos tell Boccaccio’s stories transfiguring the narration into our current contemporary language, it is the state of ‘what is’.
Dance and gesture sublimate the meanings of the stories and accompany them, these carnal poetical vials are made up of 4 dancers that separate and reunite like the literary bodies of the novellas, being both within and without, ready to become characters, personifications, stories in themselves: the essence of Decameron’s “corpus expansion”.
Stories we sell ourselves in order to live
What’s left of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron and its thriving new society?
Death and dissipation, alternative lifestyles and alternate loves, gentle ballads and vital choices, noble hearts and cynics. Our once enchanting world has now become global, in aspect but not in spirit, because everything seems to have remained the same. Just refreshed and updated like a program with its neverending uploads.
In uncertain times we continue to escape from reality, taking shelter in whatever way we can, in the easiest way provided us. In order to nurture our spirits and allow our senses to explode the virtual component of reality has led to an expanded story of who we are, a version of ourselves and of our reality we seem to have more control over. Unaware of this illusory sense of control which is quietly spinning out of our hands, while reality itself flees, evading us at every turn, so that most of us no longer see a need for it at all. It is the instant that counts and whatever it is we are telling eachother now that dictates our perceptions. A neurotic focus on eternal youth and life on-line smooth over the lines of an aging population and an ever present fear of upheaval. The obsession of self and selfies distract us from the disconnection we experience from our roots and communities.
Boccaccio’s stories do not help us to escape from the vicious circle or loop we currently find ourselves in : but we continue to tell ourselves, to « sell » ourselves, stories in order to move forwards, to keep going, where exactly it is we are directed, we do not know. We are all exiles now aware that we have no real place to escape to, whether it is within or without, the important thing is to keep moving.