Dario Fo

Dario Fo

I am a Born Storyteller

Meet legendary playwright Dario Fo, who here tells the intriguing story of how he became a storyteller and how he revolutionized theatre by “destroying the fourth wall” – encouraging his audience not to be voyeurs but to participate.

“I’m a born storyteller, it’s true.” There was a glass-blowing factory in the town in which Fo grew up, where thousands of people from all over the world were employed. As a result a strange merge of languages arose: “Grammelot was created, a language of transit made up of onomatopoeic sounds, gestures, movements, tones.” It soon became apparent that there were storytellers in all the different groups of nationalities: “Everyone told stories and I also learned to tell stories. I repeated them, then I made up stories of my own, then I took stories I’d heard from the foreigners.” Soon Fo became famous for his stories, and was often invited to dinners in order to tell them.

“She was truly my teacher.” When Fo met Italian actress Franca Rame, his wife of over six decades, she taught him the importance of communicating with the audience – “destroying the fourth wall” – in a way that would make them feel as if they were actually on stage. When Fo and Rame discovered that they were in fact “soothing the bourgeoisie” with their plays, they felt they had to change everything. This was done by e.g. setting up their plays in places where workers gathered, such as community centres. The audience soon started to participate actively: “… the audience wanted more than us performing stories which we thought were useful to them. No, they wanted us to talk about their personal problems.” In contrast to the bourgeois audience, which Fo considered to be “voyeurs”, their new audience was very much involved.

Fo and Rame performed in a time, where a cultural revolution had erupted in Italy. They developed a way of avoiding censorship by becoming an association with the audience: “We shifted all the models, the rules of conventional theatre.” Their new approach to theatre was much to the dismay of the politicians and during those years they were imprisoned, they underwent 40 trials, suffered great violence – including the rape of Rame – and had bombs placed under the theatre: “But we won with serious injuries and serious troubles…”

Dario Fo (b. 1926) is an Italian playwright, actor, comedian, director, stage and costume designer, songwriter, painter, writer and political campaigner. Much of Fo’s dramatic work depends on improvisation and draws on e.g. the ancient Italian style of commedia dell’arte. Fo’s plays, which have been performed all over the world, are known for their social criticism, and his solo piece ‘Mistero Buffo’ (1969) (Comical Mystery) is recognised as one of the most controversial and popular spectacles in post-war European theatre, and has furthermore been denounced by the Vatican. In 1997 Fo received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy praising him with the words: “He if anyone merits the epithet of jester in the true meaning of that word. With a blend of laughter and gravity he opens our eyes to abuses and injustices in society and also the wider historical perspective in which they can be placed.”

Dario Fo was interviewed by Christian Lund at Hotel Bella Sky in Copenhagen on 10 November 2015.

Camera: Simon Weyhe
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Ed Atkins

    Something is Missing

    Ed Atkins is considered one of the most unsettling contemporary artists – as well as one of the most exciting. In this video, the young British artist shares how he works from written texts, and why melancholy is at the centre of his animated digital videos.

  • Louisa Gagliardi

    Longing for Something Else

    “Art is amazing because it’s in a way unnecessary, but extremely necessary as a testimony of its time.” Let us introduce you to a rising star of painting, Louisa Gagliardi, who creates her surreal work digitally and adds layers of paint to the printed image.

  • Hannah Levy

    A Design Purgatory

    “I wonder if the reason why people want to touch it is that they’re in some way attracted to it, or if they’re repulsed by it.” Meet the young artist Hannah Levy, who primarily makes sculptures combining curving steel forms with cast silicone.

  • Dora Budor

    Acting Things

    “I want to use art as a field where I can explore parallel scenarios.” Dora Budor makes complex sculptures and interactive installations inspired by cinematic metaverse and scientific research. Join us as we visit the young Croatian artist in her studio.

  • Ian Cheng

    A Portal to Infinity

    Watch Ian Cheng, a rising star on the art scene, talk about his trilogy of animated live simulation works – ‘Emissaries’ – which work like a never-ending video game in real time: “It was a process that was on-going as life is on-going.”

  • Yona Friedman

    Advice to the Young

    What piece of advice would a renowned 94-year-old architect offer young architects? Find out in this short video, where Yona Friedman argues that architects must always adapt to the context and work for the average user.

  • Jan Gehl

    How to Build a Good City

    “We now know that first, we form the cities, but then the cities form us.” Meet the 81-year-old Danish architect Jan Gehl, who for more than fifty years has focused on improving the quality of urban life by helping people “re-conquer the city.”

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Bill Viola

    Cameras are Soul Keepers

    When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.