Luigi Pirandello: Naked

BBC Radio 3: Sunday Play

Broadcast: Sunday 1st November 1998 @ 7:30 p.m.

Typically provocative, at once comic and tragic, Pirandello's "Naked" uncovers the machinery of guilt, deceit, and betrayal underlying the motives of five people. The heroine is a young governess, Ersilia Drei, who has been reduced to despair by a series of misfortunes.

Dismissed from service when the baby in her care, momentarily unguarded, fell from a terrace to its death, Ersilia is abandoned by her prospective husband. Penniless and homeless, she turns to prostitution, but fails at this too and poisons herself in a public park. In the hospital, expecting to die, she fabricates a tale that dresses up the wretched facts of her life in romantic illusions. She nevertheless does not die; and her fabrication appears in a newspaper which generates more than casual interest in her and her situation as the action turns farcical, resembling a contemporary media event.

Ersilia is exploited by four men and is seen in a different light by each one: the newspaper reporter; a best-selling writer who rescues her; her faithless lover; and her former employer; all of whom pursue her, demanding she account for her lies. As she feels hounded beyond endurance, her situation grows increasingly dark. The unexpected ending shocks the listener into new awareness about the consequences of fantasy and illusion in our daily lives as Pirandello explores the naked self which lies under the cloth of tales we continuously spin for ourselves.

Adapted by Nicholas Wright from Luigi Pirandello's 1922 play, "Vestire gli Ignudi" ("To Clothe the Naked"), in a 1998 production of "Naked" for the Almeida Theatre, London.

With Juliette Binoche [Ersilia Drei], Oliver Ford Davies [Ludovico Nota, a Well-Known, Middle-Aged Novelist], Anita Reeves [Signoria Onoria, Nota's Landlady], Ben Daniels [Lieutenant Franco Laspiga, Ersilia's Faithless Lover], Kevin McNally [Signor Consul Grotti, Ersilia's Ex-Boss], David Sibley [Alfredo Cantavalle, a Journalist], and Romy Baskerville [Emma, the Cleaning Woman].

Music by Jonathan Dove. Sound design by John A Leonard.

Directed by Jonathan Kent, joint artistic director at the Almeida Theatre, London.

Produced by Susan Roberts and Pauline Harris

Note: Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934.

Re-broadcast on Sunday 8th August 1999 @ 9:50 p.m. on BBC Radio 3: Sunday Play.

80 min.


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