Review Turin


A fairy tale about the Island of Hope in the cultural hot-spot Off Topic


“The fantastic story of Hope” (L’ímmaginifica storia di Espérer) is the fourth and last cultural event of the Specially Unknown project. On 29 May the premiere took place in the cultural hot-spot Off Topic.


It is an allegory based on the situation of a group of refugees on the Italian/French border in 2015. It is created and narrated by theatre director and actor Antonio Damasco, director of the Italian network of Folk Culture, partner of Specially Unknown from Turin.


Damasco took this real life-event to create a multi-layered poetic tale about what happened to people who fled their poor, disaster-stricken countries and came to the shores of the two “fortunate” countries; but also about what might happen to the two lucky countries. The story takes a single real-life event from 2015 – refugees stuck between Italy and France – to the next level. It casts a light on migration as a timeless and universal phenomenon.
This idea shaped the intriguing form of the performance: it is a collage of solo narrating, screenings of the real-life interviews with refugees, traditional Italian migrant songs and Arabic songs and music. It confronts the public with examples of migrations of their own people and reminds them of the similarities between the human destinies now and then, here and there.


The performance starts with a short video of interview fragments from Specially Unknown. Nezha Mousaif, multi-talented Moroccan fieldworker of Specially Unknown, accompanied by Mauricio Verna (guitar) and Yassin el Mahi (drums) sings an Arabic lullaby in which a mother comforts her child afraid of darkness at sea.


The song is taken over by Laura Conti, who sings a traditional Italian migrant song. In the course of the play, she sings several times, amongst others about Marcinelle, a big mine disaster in Belgium in 1965, in which 136 Italian miners died.


The story of Espérer, the Island of Hope, is told by a narrator resembling a Commedia dell’ Arte character. It is an allegory about a group of fleeing people who came to the shores of a country called Sollucchero, near its border with another country, Rien-ne-va-plus. They wanted to go to Rien-ne-va-plus, because the motto of that country was: “All citizens have equal social status and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion…”. They didn’t know that recently, there was an addition to this motto: “All citizens, who have a certified minimum income …”


But Sollucchero – a country living from “tourisiticalization” and commercialization of its good climate, food and historical beauties – didn’t allow refugees to enter it, not even for transit to Rien-ne-va-plus. Rien-ne-va-plus didn’t want them either.


The refugees landed on the rock at the no – man’s land between Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus. Both countries sent soldiers to keep refugees from entering their country, quarrelled and tried to pass the responsibility for the refugees living on a rock upon each other.
While they were quarrelling the refugees started building a life on the small piece of land, which they named Espérer (Hope). They built a merry community, full of joy, laughter, singing, music, eating, telling stories and feasting together, full of something that lacked in both Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus: hope.


This attracted the attention of thousands of young people from both Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus. They were amazed by the talents and way of life of the inhabitants of Hope. Many of the youngsters even moved to Espérer, because of a life with hope, and also because it had no barriers and customs, no soldiers, and everybody was accepted.


The situation turned upside down: now Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus both wanted Espérer and quarrelled about whose country it belonged to. After a long dispute, they came up with the idea of offering the inhabitants of Espérer dual citizenship.


But when they came to offer it, Espérer was no longer there. The rock where it was cut itself from the mainland and became a travelling island, which sailed away, never to return.


After this, it was forbidden in both Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus to pronounce the name of Espérer. The island was forgotten as were the young people who went away to search for it.
The Solluchero and Rien-ne-va-plus slowly demolished. Some whispered the inhabitants of Espérer had stolen all the wonder…


This poetic allegory performance ends with beautiful Arabic/Italian songs and percussion.


The play was warmly received by the audience. They recognized its many metaphors and references to the current way of life and state of the matter in their country and in Europe, not only the names of the countries. At the end they couldn’t stop clapping, shouting and whistling. The evening was, in a spirit of Espérer community, closed with a joint dinner.


“L’ímmaginifica storia di Espérer” will be played in several Italian cities, like Palermo and Genoa, (Suq festival 23 June) and villages at the French/Italian border and in the Turin region.