Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Like nails scratching down a blackboard, La Merda provokes a pure, visceral reaction. A piece that really gets under your skin.
A tiny, naked woman wearing red lipstick with her hair done up innocently like a toddler sits atop a giant stool in the centre of the stage singing softly into a microphone in Italian. Once the audience are seated, words begin to fall out of her mouth in a torrent – a stream of consciousness which takes some time to tune into due to the scratchy, harsh nature of her voice, her strong accent and the acoustics in this laboratory at Summerhall. What is unmistakable is her anger. She rants about topics as varied as the courage it took for her father to commit suicide, her perceived problem with her thighs which prompted her to seek ‘treatment’ in the form of an alternative therapy, and her obsession with becoming famous.
There are three parts to this piece, each ending in an explosion of fury and despair. Nationalistic and religious themes are evident. She mentions that her father doesn’t let her do religious studies, which is a strong statement in an intensely Catholic country like Italy. Confusion about how to control her burgeoning sexuality, issues with body image and the early loss of her father have all contributed to her fractured psyche. She is determined to do whatever it takes to become famous.
As she tells these stories she plays each of the other characters she speaks about as a caricature which is particularly uncomfortable when she is telling a story about a deaf and disabled teenage boy, putting on his voice in a nasty way. Among other things this contributes to making her an unlikeable character. Her confronting nudity and piercing voice make her an even more discomforting presence. At the same time we can’t help but pity this small creature filled with so much bitterness. Why should a girl have to be soft and feminine to inspire empathy?
Silvia Gallerano’s performance is compelling and powerful. A lesser performer would not be able to carry the weight of writer Cristian Ceresoli’s rambling, passionate monologue. What is particularly noteworthy is that she has been performing this show since 2012 but manages to bring so much energy and emotion to every performance.
La Merda is not an easy watch and it certainly won’t be everyone’s idea of a fulfilling way to spend an hour. But there is something in the raw, unpolished nature of this piece which is truly live theatre at it’s most gripping.