EDINBURGH FRINGE 2023 / INTERVIEW
"The show was born in Italian and doing it in English was a great challenge for all of us."
Gian Paolo Mai
Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles
6 - 13 August 2023 - 14:30 (1hr00)
May 31, 2023
Faruk Šehic, soldier-poet, and director Gian Paolo Mai, investigate the social and personal impacts of the conflicts of the century of light and genocide.
Inspired by Cesena Film Academy’s award-winning short film "Brothers".
Hi Gian, thank you so much for talking to The New Current. How does it feel to be coming to C Venues this August with Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles?
I am thrilled and can't wait to be in Edinburgh. It is the first time that for me at the Fringe and I am sure that it will certainly be a different experience and that it will only be able to enrich me from a professional point of view.
Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles is based on your award-winning short film Brothers that you co-wrote and directed with Maurizio Nari. Had you always intended to turn this short into a theatrical production?
The short film "Brothers" was born as a 'peace distribution weapon' against the current conflict. I had to do something and I did it. I never thought of making it a theatre show. I thought the short was enough to express my position with respect to war, to wars.
What did it mean to you and Maurizio to see your short film get this type of reaction and recognition?
People are tired of wars and the hypocrisies that surround them. Our message of peace has arrived at a dramatic moment in our history. A moment when the whole world is on the 'edge of the abyss. Artists from all over the world should mobilise to express their dissent in the most suitable ways for them.
History has never taught anything intelligent because wars are always repeated always making the same mistakes. We live in the world of social media and we have the opportunity to make our voices heard. We are the critical conscience, at least we should be, of society.
What made you want to bring Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles to Edinburgh Fringe?
Our show needed an international space of great prestige. The fringe is the ideal place, I would say natural. We are confident that we can compare ourselves with many other artists and discuss what is happening. Maybe give birth to some interesting collaborations.
How did you both meet, what what was it about Faruk’s life and lived experience that inspired you to adapt your short film into this new show?
There are magical encounters that just happen. This is the case of me and Faruk Šehic. I needed to tell something that really smacked of gunpowder, blood, pain. I didn't want Åto do literature. You needed someone who had the experience of war on his skin. Faruk is a poet who in 1993 was twenty years old and found himself shooting and killing people, human beings of his same age because someone had decided so. My friends of his committed suicide after the war. They have not withstood the post - war shock. He survived through the hell of alcohol and post-traumatic stress disorder through writing. His books are full of death but also of the will to live. I would say they are full of love for life. I read his books and created the core of the show from there. I contacted him telling him I wanted him in Rome for the premiere of the show and he took a plane from Berlin and came. His biography is blood and flesh, not entertainment.A
What have been the biggest changes you made compared to your film?
More than a change, I would say that there has been an expansion. I started from the film to then go and explore the other conflicts. Just like the war in the Balkans which has become the new pivot together with the film of the show.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles came about?
There were two precise causes that prompted me to transform Brothers into a theatre show. The first was to involve people directly. Make people understand what it means to be at war. My message needs to reach people in a more specific way. What better way than that of theatre, live entertainment.
The second motivation was born after listening to many statements of politicians on the current war in Ukraine. These are the same obvious and trivial words spoken for every conflict that has taken place in Europe. I had to do more. I had to let young people know that there have been many other equally devastating wars. That the mourning we are experiencing is unfortunately nothing new, that it is not the only war in which diplomacy has failed. We have been at war practically since 1992 and few Europeans know it. From the fratricidal wars of Yugoslavia in 1992 to those of Chechnya, up to Kosovo and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Wars between populations that have always considered themselves Brothers.
Did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that also highlights a very salient contemporary social and political themes?
Tackling current political issues is very salient it didn't scare me. Sure, it's an exposure but if you do this job, you have to do it. No, you can only do entertainment.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from this experience and working together on this production?
This is a special show. I've done many but this one has something magical about it. It's a show born from the heart and naturally took its path. It was all in my head and it materialised in front of me. The lesson I can draw from this experience is that when you work with your heart, abandoning any artifice of the trade and above all if you work without haste, without commercial constraints, then things fit together in the right direction. The actors connect with you and you become one body.
"As a director I can well understand the state of mind of the actor in that moment and to work on it in a specific way."
With a show like Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles are you able to give yourself and your cast much flexible with the material or do you prefer to stick to what you have written and rehearsed?
It's a very flexible show. This is also why it can be taken to the Fringe. It can adapt to any situation. The show was born in Italian and doing it in English was a great challenge for all of us. Of course I also spoke to Faruk about the fact that we were going to change some things in the text.
As a graduate of the National Academy of Acting and having created you own theatre company, where would you say your passion for theatre and performing came from?
Being Neapolitan, theatre is already naturally in my DNA. Naples is an open-air theatre. My father acted and my uncle too. What just had to happen happened.
How much has your background as an actor helped you in your approach writing and directing theatre?
Very, very much. Being an actor has given me the opportunity to feel, to imagine clearly what I write. It gave me the opportunity to write in a more conscious and clear way. I usually write with the actor in mind who will play that part. As a director I can well understand the state of mind of the actor in that moment and to work on it in a specific way.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone thinking about getting into acting or theatre?
Don't compromise with yourself ever. Being honest and respecting each other and above all working by listening to the heart.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Brothers: War Poems and Chronicles?
I would like the audience to leave the theatre with more awareness and less literature.