A Macaroni Penguin — La Merda Kicks Butt
“Stop being such a God-damned sissy! Why can’t you stand up before fine strong music like this and use your ears like a man?”
- At a 1931 concert of Charles Ives’s and Ruggles’s music, a man booed during Ruggles’s Men and Mountains.
For those expecting a quick review of May 2nd’s opening La Merde at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre you will have to be a tad patient and read on.
Every once in a while when I am in the doldrums I take out my Charles Ives records and play them. They almost sound normal perhaps because of numerous playings through the years.
At my age 74 it is very comfortable to read my beloved mystery writers like Andrea Camilleri, Donna Leon, or the-easy-now-after-repeated readings of the poems of Emily Dickinson. I can say the same about the stories and poems of Jorge Luís Borges.
But knowing I am in this easy doldrums I have been tackling the more difficult Julio Cortázar.
Also at my age it is comfortable to stay home and watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC with my Rosemary while eating healthy food that I have prepared for the both of us. It is as pleasant as waking up on our Stickley bed and bringing up our breakfast tray with our NY Times and Vancouver Sun. This easy routine is that, easy, and it feels good. But at the same time I know there is more to this as Peggy Lee put it, “Is this all there is?”
I have written often how those who go to the Vancouver Symphony programs usually avoid the more avant-garde Turning Point Ensemble or the paradoxical experience of witnessing Early Music Vancouver celebrations of the “new music” of 17thcentury composers.
I have written how those who go to Ballet BC will not also attend Contact Improvisational Dance at the Western Front or try the many very good modern dance companies of our city.
There is a lot of edgy stuff in our city by the edge of the sea that is not reported by our fading mainstream media.
When Paul Grant the stellar CBC arts reporter for CBC Radio retired a few years ago his position was not filled. There is hole in that radio station where culture should be flourishing.
But there are a few bastions in this city of ours of stuff the push thee boundaries of the expected, the comfortable, the usual and somehow lure us out of that everyday comfort.
One such bastion is the Turning Point Ensemble which is made up of musicians (well known ones) who as part of other musical orchestras have gotten bored with the daily faire.
Another is our East Vancouver Cultural Centre or the Cultch as it is affectionately called.
For many years as I have noted here, the Cultch made it de rigueur to offer one performance work per year that had complete nudity. In our formerly Scottish Presbyterian influenced city this was verboten. But slowly and surely the Cultch prevailed and nudity was no longer seen as something to harp about.
It was a combination of complete nudity, some shouting, various references to fellatio (look it up) and a good deal of scatological language that may have offended or shocked the audience at last night’s full (perhaps over-sold performance) of Cristian Ceresoli’s La Merde performed by Silvia Gallerano in pretty good English.
My Rosemary was serious but I was laughing. Perhaps this is because for close to 8 years in my boyhood Buenos Aires our neighbours were Italians from Calabria who always dined on their patio. They had fights and it seemed that whispering anything was out of the question. They were plain noisy. The patriarch of the family was the neighbourhood barber. He would cut my hair while discussing that weekends football games. He would gesticulate to the point I thought he might slice off portions of my face! His son, Miguelito was one of my two best friends as was Jewish Mario.
Gesticularion, shouting, passion, not keeping it inside is a trait that all Argentines (and I am a former one) share with Italians. We are warm and express ourselves readily. Gallerano’s repeated foul language could never have offended my ear. In Spanish and Italian (most similar in how they and we swear) there is a more varied and truly edgy offensive language of the insult. The premier one in my Argentine Spanish (which I will not translate is aggresive and all about motherly suggestions):
¡Vete a coger a la puta madre que the parió!
Not long after we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 we were invited for after-dinner-drinks. Even my staunchly Canadian wife (New Dublin, Ontario) did not know what that was. I still feel alienated in this rainy, gray Vancouver so full of people who do not gesticulate!
So it was that last night I felt much at home as Silvia Gallerano (she is surprisingly short but her thighs are not big, and you must see La Merde to understand what I mean!) performed with microphone in hand on a tall platform while not wearing a stitch except for perhaps a couple of rubber bands for her two very cute buns on top of her head.
To fully understand La Merda one has to know a bit about the political chaos of Italy that has been its tragedy since its inception as a country in the 19thcentury. The only big and less dangerous difference between the not-yet-forgotten Silvio Berlusconi and the US’s President Trump is that Berlusconi never had a nuclear red button to press. But corruption and patronage (read any of the books by Michael Dibdin) that feature Aurelio Zen, a Venetian cop or Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian cop,Salvo Montalbano) to understand what all that shit that Silvia Gallerano was talking and shouting about.
Particularly prescient was the big theme of La Merda on what a woman has to do in order to “make it” in the world of men. Between Trump’s groping and what is still ailing Fox News, and not to mention our very own Jian Ghomeshi what we heard from Gallerano. was an uncomfortable truth of society I our 21stcentury.
One the one hour show was finished the silence in the room was palpable. People might have been shocked. But I insist in recording here that thanks to the Cultch and to whoever selects the stuff that is offered, we in this Vancouver of complacency need to be kicked in the butt.
Last night Silvia Gallerano did a lot of that.
Addendum: It was pleasant after all the shock of that intense performance to meet (very short) Silvia Gallerano and her partner the writer of the work, Cristian Ceresoli. They were (I thought) uncharacteristically soft-spoken as we conversed in their very good Spanish. But there is one statement by Gallerano that troubled me when I pointed out that few in the audience may have known of all the travails of her country. She said,”Many in my own country have forgotten.” It would seem that the pair will have to keep performing the play (as they have in several languages all over the world) to keep the world, the forgetful world, on it toes.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.