“This is Argentina”, boldly declares the ominous and intriguing programme entry for La Città Senza Nome at Prague Fringe 2023. We wanted to know more about the purposefully mysterious piece landing at Prague Fringe later this week, so we sat down with the show’s writer-performers Lucas Joaquin Da Tos Villalba and Matteo Campagnol. Join us for a pixelated pilsner as we get acquainted with a square, a camper without wheels serving as a pub, a barber and an old abandoned barracks.
Catch La Città Senza Nome at Café Club Míšenská between May 24th and 27th (times vary by day). Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.
Jake: Hi Matteo & Lucas! ‘La Citta Senza Nome/The Town with No Name’ tells the tale of “bizarre and crazy resistance”, taking place over the course of one night. Tell us what that means and what the audience can expect going in.
Matteo & Lucas: La Città Senza Nome is first of all the story of a man who decides to leave everything and ends up in a strange place, a little town in the middle of nowhere. His story then mixes with all the stories of the people who live there. In appearance, these people are very strange and grotesque – and indeed they are – but everyone of them has a story to tell about how they ended up there.
Then, right when the protagonist is getting used to this town and this people, at the point of liking them and their strange ways, History – the one with a capital H – comes, under the shape of a dictatorship and a company of soldiers wanting to occupy the village. The villagers have a choice: to surrender or to try to make up, with the few means the have at their disposal, a desperate resistance.
We are making a huge effort on the language: the show was originally written in Italian; we did not want to use subtitles because we find them very distracting and so we worked on a tri-lingual version of the show. The majority is in a mix of English and Spanish, with some Italian addictions. We believe this strange mix of languages is a good representation of the mix of cultures and stories we try to perform.
Jake: The show covers a South America that is “marked by dictatorship and violence” – what inspired the creation of the piece and what are you hoping it impacts on the audience?
Matteo & Lucas: Lucas is Italian-Argentinian and so he has always took interest in the turbulent history of his home country. We met in drama school in Venice, Italy and we started working together in 2018, with the first piece of a trilogy about South America. As for me, I have a deep interest in South America and its very peculiar storytelling, always on the edge between real and magic. Besides that, we believe in one thing, mainly: there are some stories that are too good to not be told. We don’t want to make history lessons, though: we want to tell a story, as we say in Italian, una favola per adulti, which grossly translates to “a fairytale for adults”. It’s simply the story of a man who decides to go, finds love, finds friends and a place he actually wants to stay in, but abruptly everything becomes at stake and he has to decide if it’s worthy to even think about fighting for this, in an apparently uneven fight against the soldiers.
Despite the very serious topic, we think the final result is very light and enjoyable, because it’s a story everyone can relate to, even people who have nothing to do with South America. Lucas’s and his family’s tales dragged me into that place and into the that people in a way I could not even start to imagine, and that’s what we hope will happen to our audience.
Jake: We’re told to expect a town full of grotesque characters – who will we meet on this journey?
Matteo & Lucas: We were inspired by the people you meet when you travel in little towns, where everyone knows each other. I come from a very little island near Venice, Lucas actually comes from one of these villages in the Argentinian pampa, and we mixed together our experiences in meeting strange and unusual people.
These people are often very grotesque at first sight, like they have some masks on. Although, when you manage to break the surface and see what’s underneath, they have a stunning inner world and staggering stories to tell. We couldn’t tell the stories of all the inhabitants, so we painted a bigger picture of background characters, such as the priest, the barber, the bartender, and we focus more closely on two characters: an old gaucho living in wagon and a mechanic who was once a miner, but loves poetry. All these people create an energetic, vibrant and never monotonous atmosphere in which our protagonist acts and lives his tales.
Jake: Now that we’re gearing up for Prague Fringe, what are you most excited for?
Matteo & Lucas: We participated at the Catania Fringe in October, and it was our first experience in a Fringe Festival. We can’t wait to again meet performers from around the world, and exchange our stories, exchange our ways to do and see theatre and performing arts. Plus, this will be our first show abroad with La Città Senza Nome, for which we are working on a translation in a mixture of English and Spanish, as we explained in the previous question. We are very excited about how it is going and can’t wait to see how it works out on stage!
Jake: Given the themes of Binge Fringe, if your show was a beverage of any kind (alcoholic, non-alcoholic – be as creative as you like!), what would it be and why?
Matteo & Lucas: We didn’t want to be too obvious, but we can’t not be the mate from Argentina. We are energetic and strong on stage like mate, and we have very strong connections with the land, like the herbs of which the mate is made from. This is a story that comes from the Argentinian pampa, passed by the Chilean saltpetre mines, went through the ocean, reached the Venice lagoon and the mountains of Sudtirol where it was born; like the herbs from mate mix with the hot water and creates a very energizing and strong-tasted beverage.