INTERVIEW with Pippo Delbono

At the request of his deeply religious, dying mother, the former Christian Pippo Delbono created a performance based on the gospel. It became a stream of consciousness of stunning images, music and emotions which, above all, manage to capture the spirit of our time. An ultimate ode to love, the ultimate opposition to death. We are proud to present this wilful, generous and poetic performance in Brussels.

Pippo Delbono is a phenomenon. An eccentric theatre-maker and master in the art of living. With his quirky, poetic, personal, affectionate theatre idiom, which is also permeated with punk, he occupies a totally unique place on the international theatre scene. In his work Delbono balances on the border separating public and intimate, autobiographical and universal.

The title is “Vangelo”, as the show is based on the Vangelo. In a certain sense, however, a play could not be more actual and contemporary than this one.
For sure, the contemporaneity of the Vangelo has a great relevance nowadays. The Vangelo was indeed a message from Christ at a time when slavery existed. It introduced both the concept of human equality and that of love towards your neighbors. These statements are more than ever actual, revolutionary and crucial in our present world, where new walls are being erected, new racisms and xenophobia arise, and power – thirsty people govern the world, while being careless of human beings. The words of the Vangelo are not difficult to understand: however, its message is simultaneously simple and complex, as complex are the times we are living though.

Did your vision of the biblical Vangelo change after the creation of this play?
I have a strong catholic background. My mother used to be a so-called “bigot”: she spent much time in the Church and had absorbed both the most rigid and the most beautiful aspects of it. I escaped that years ago. I have been practising Buddhism for almost thirty years, and somehow work precisely to suppress that history, that culture. Coming back to it in a young and spontaneous manner made me read the words of the Vangelo as if they were a poet’s verses. I ended up finding words of great openness, freedom and revolution. I also reflected on Christ’s betrayal: maybe this was implemented since the inception, progressively leading to the Church’s contemporary structure and to the surfacing of all these institutions, which were able to use observations on birth, life and death in order to create power.

Do you believe that your mother would be satisfied with the outcome?
I worked on this play thinking of my mother. She had already asked me to do it, but I wouldn’t have accepted just to please her, say if she’d asked me to write a play on Finland’s jams. I decided to work on this because of my mother’s place in a whole European generation and civilization, which were able to build an entire path on that history. I believed in the importance of it. I think that my mother probably grew up, after her death. Given that an “after” exists, in a space which isn’t a space and in a time which isn’t time. If this non-space beyond the mental concepts of space and time really exists, then yes, something deep of my mother’s is surely there. Not even my mother with her principles, but a greater and holier something must be there.

You travel often throughout Europe with your plays. To what extent do you believe it is important to show “Vangelo” in Brussels? It is a city with 180 different nationalities, many languages and the capital of the European Union.
I always believe that places where different people co-exist offer a great chance of building a path. Otherwise, in some cases, conflicts arise. If you think of all the great conflicts, indeed, most of them grow precisely from those lands which are inhabited by different people: think, for example, of Israel and Palestine, or of Sarajevo. As stated by Christ, however, after falling, the seed can either survive and stay on the ground or die and produce new life, new fruits. We are all deeply part of this path –indeed, we all were born, we all get old, we all die. This applies to everyone, from the last refugee drowning in the water to the president of the USA. We somehow all share the same condition. Whilst this is a holy thought, it does not take the form of a religious or spiritual process, but it rather manifests itself as an awareness. With this awareness, the only chance to live with other people is to build a common path. In a city as Brussels, and in a moment as this – where dangerous walls are being erected – it is thus fundamental that a harmony of differences is created. I really like this sentence from a Bergman’s movie: “The theatre is an encounter between human beings”. I would add that the theatre is an encounter between different human beings. And it is precisely when different human beings find the right way to encounter each other, that the inception of a great revolution takes place.

Image: Luca del Pia