Tutto Dante – Roberto Benigni at Theatre Royal

From The Telegraph:

Tutto-dante_1379658c The atmosphere at Roberto Benigni's one-man show Tutto Dante (“Everything about Dante”) was more akin to a football match than a night at the theatre. With tutti gli Italiani in the UK, it seemed, assembled at the Theatre Royal, there were whoops and stamping feet before the man himself even bounced on stage, accompanied by circus music and whirling lights. Benigni has long been a national hero in Italy. Climbing over the seats to collect his Oscar for the 1997 tragicomedy La Vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful) was only the most conspicuous of his acts of iconoclasm. Since the 1970s he has been adored as a satirist of Italy's politicians. But, over the past three years, he has added to his hero status through his touring show dedicated to Italy's medieval literary giant, Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy.

But before Benigni got down to the serious business of the evening, he acted as his own warm-up artist. His jokes about Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi raised easy laughs, but were none the less funny for that – not least because he delivered them in English. The advance publicity had said that the show would be in Italian, with no surtitles (because he improvises), so the shift was greeted with relief from the minority of the Brits – and sighs of disappointment from the Italians. “It will be like Mr Bean in Rome talking about Milton,” said Benigni. But despite his comic delivery, this was a serious enterprise, a homage to a great era of 13th- and 14th-century Italian culture.

More here. (I saw Benigni perform this on stage seven years ago in Chicago and it is a rare treat for Dante lovers. After 90 minutes of an almost comical interpretation of the Thirty-third Canto from The Paradiso, Benigni suddenly stood completely still at center stage and recited the entire 146 lines from memory. Although it was in Italian, there was not a dry eye in the audience. I was so moved by it that I made my 8 year old daughter memorize the entire Canto, in English of course.)