Divine Comedy – A Journey to Hell and Back

Romeo Castellucci’s extraordinary theatrical feast lands in Tokyo.

In Features by William Andrews 2009-12-05

Modern Renaissance man Romeo Castellucci is bringing his ambitious trilogy of stage works based on Dante’s “La Divina Commedia”. Castellucci is familiar to Tokyo audiences for his production “Hey Girl”, which was performed here in the spring. This adaptation, previously seen in London and Avignon, is a journey through hell, purgatory and heaven.

Romeo Castellucci's 'Inferno', as performed at Honor's Court at the Pope’s Palace in Avignon.

“Inferno” is a visually spectacular work involving some fifty extras, animals and (appropriately enough) pyrotechnics.

Romeo Castellucci's 'Inferno'

Romeo Castellucci's 'Inferno'

Romeo Castellucci's 'Inferno'

Romeo Castellucci's 'Inferno'

“Purgatorio” focuses on a seemingly ideal bourgeois family — but one in which fear lies bubbling under the surface. “Purgatorio” is a hyper-real, domesticated world; the trap of banality is the torment keeping souls away from God’s kingdom.

Likewise a distinct work in its own right, “Paradiso” is an installation that the viewer experiences by themselves. This might be heaven but it is, in the words of Castellucci, “the most terrible canto”: man is excluded from the world, condemned to the sole glory of God the creator.

Romeo Castellucci's 'Purgatorio'

Romeo Castelucci's 'Paradiso'

“Inferno” runs from December 11 for three performances only; “Purgatorio” from December 19; “Paradiso” can be seen December 17 to 21. All performances are in English with Japanese surtitles. Package tickets for all three works cost 12,000 yen. For more information on tickets and venues, visit the Festival/Tokyo 09 website.

William Andrews

William Andrews. William Andrews came to Japan in 2004. He first lived in Osaka, where he was a translator for Kansai Art Beat. Arriving in Tokyo in 2008, he now works as an writer, editor and translator. He writes a blog about Japanese radicalism and counterculture (ThrowOutYourBooks.wordpress.com) and one about Tokyo contemporary theatre (TokyoStages.wordpress.com). He is the author of Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima. » See other writings


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