Interview with Gea Martire

I have watched “Ferdinando”, a play by Annibale Ruccello, featuring Gea Martire and directed by Nadia Baldi. I was captivated by the text, which I had heard about but did not know, and I was excited by the interpretation of the actors, all of them. The play tells of a Bourbon baroness who after the unification of Italy chose isolation as a sign of contempt for the new culture. But hold on…! “Ferdinando” does not want to be the story of a specific historical event but it is a drama that represents the difficulties of a humanity that is anchored to values that are disintegrating in favor of greed and that, inevitably, ends in an imbalance. It is a beautiful text that everyone who comes from Southern Italy should read or watch at the theater. Furthermore, given the current historical dynamics, the theme of the text is definitely current. The rushing river of words that, like the lava of a volcano, flows, dense, throughout the first act of “Ferdinando”, is the epiphany of the greatness of a culture that through the language, our language, full of history and rich in shades, lives and evolves. Each word needs be heard and weighed in its meaning which belongs to our tradition. During the course of the play, however, the volcano’s lava cools: the way of speaking of Donna Clotilde, the baroness, gradually changes, it becomes “Italianized”. The words tend to decrease and souls, after a succession of the most disparate emotions, are emptied by a humanity that consumes everything quickly but that cultivates nothing.

The greed that here dehumanize does not necessarily have to be placed in a specific era. Actually we are currently experiencing it. We also find this theme in “Sottosopra”(upside down), a show written by Gea Martire, where the author literally brings down the saints from heaven to recover men from their greed. Inspired by “Dicerie sui Santi e altri malumori”(rumors about Saints and other discontent) by Davide Morganti, “Sottosopra” happens in a surreal atmosphere, where Angela Formisano, a woman of the people, on the notes of a live sax, that of Valerio Virzo, describes a world turned upside down, telling about the events of March-April 2020. The protagonist is played by Gea Martire herself, a frank and energetic woman, an extraordinary actress, a passionate and total interpreter.

Gea Martire is daughter of Vesuvius. She was born at Torre Annunziata, a town on the slopes of the volcano. Her career took her to the capital where she lived for a period of her life.Subsequently, she returned to Napoli where she currently lives.

You’ve seen her on the cinema screen, directed by Dino Risi, Nanni Loy, Ettore Scola, Mario Monicelli, Ferzan Özpetek, Ruggero Cappuccio, with whom the actress also collaborates in the theater; Giancarlo Giannini, Carlo Verdone and many others no less important.

Despite her busy cinematographic activity, Gea Martire focuses more on the theater, cultivating her love for her as always.

IP – In addition to your ever-evolving work in the theater, you have participated in numerous movies directed by well-known Italian directors. Have you ever had multiple engagements at the same time? If so, how did you manage the different roles? –

GM – Yes, it has happened to me and it has always been difficult to put together the working hours, the necessary movements. Especially when the set is in one city and the show may be staged somewhere else. It was tiring and difficult. It must really be worth it, otherwise it is better not to drown, risking to loose both concentration and energy on one side and the other.

It is necessary not to get caught up in anxiety. It is necessary to hold on to the character without leaving room for digressions, building a mental waiting room in which to accommodate the other character, inviting him to a patient waiting and making him feel, however, an attention that will soon be intensified. Then, as always, you need the kindness of the people, the availability of the productions to help you. Sometimes it happens, other times you collide with walls. –

IP – You wrote, together with Antonio Capuano, and you also interpreted the monologue “Mulignane”, taken from the story by Francesca Prisco, entitled “Reinbov Drim”. Could the nameless woman be Partenope? –

GM – The woman with no-name in “Mulignane” is a real woman not a symbolic woman. She is the woman who, despite the battles won in the field of women’s emancipation, she still finds herself in the grip of prejudices, of judgments and of mental schemes. The most rigid one, made such by fears and fragility, is her own, and it is what she must deal with first. Our worst enemy is ourselves. She will unhinge her mental scaffolding and pull her life out of the quagmire. As we like it to be for every woman. –

IP – What does Napoli represent for you? –

GM – I was born and I lived in the province of Napoli, in Torre Annunziata. I attended Napoli for university but soon I moved to Rome where I lived, tour permitting, for many years. Anytime I came to Napoli for work or for pleasure, I always felt bursts of energy and electricity came to me. I found the vital underground current of a volcano that ignites impulses and opacity. Over time, this vortex attracted me more and more. I felt the need for an environment that expressed strength and creativity which, on the other hand, seemed to fade away elsewhere. Napoli is a city that is always in turmoil. Napoli is alive, creative and imaginative. Napoli is a city that loves the theater,it takes it inside, it exposes it, it cultivates it, it always looks for it. The Neapolitan language is among the most beautiful, harmonious languages in the world, it is music. For 12 years I moved to Napoli and my work, my thoughts have found new stimuli and new fun.-

IP – What Neapolitan play would you suggest to a foreigner? –

GM – I carry inside the last theatrical work that has given me great joys: “Ferdinando”, a masterpiece written by Annibale Ruccello, a young, a great author who died prematurely 35 years ago. I would recommend “Ferdinando” because it is a text of extraordinary compactness, it is a perfect dramaturgical structure. There are 4 characters drawn with precision and rigor. This is one of those great, beautiful, important theatrical work that don’t care about duration. It doesn’t care to make people laugh, to please the audience. And then opportunities must be taken to meet an author whose greatness is still not known from everyone. –

IP – Emergency measures due to the mismanagement of the pandemic led to the closure of theaters. Many theaters have decided to offer shows on digital platforms. So the shows can be followed from home: on television or in streaming. Do you believe that this method can replace the live theatrical performance? –

GM – No. The theater is a stage, an audience, a curtain that opens.Theater is live emotions. Everything else is a version of the theater, a hypothesis, televised or computerized, but it is not theater. So much so that these solutions are born out of necessity, makeshift. These solutions were not born out of artistic needs. Theater is a flow that runs between actors who share the stage and spectators who attend.

A screen, of whatever nature it is, blocks it, limits it, impoverishes it. –

IP – What do you like to do when you are not in the theater? –

GM – I like going to the theater. And at the movie theater. –

IP – What’s the last thing you do before going on stage? –

GM – I repeat lines that feel risky. I go over the text and look for silence. I am alienated, I warm my voice and breathe deeply I concentrate on putting myself aside and leaving all the space for the character who has to talk about himself through me that evening. It is basically a mediumistic session. –

IP – How did you spend your time during the lockdown period? –

GM – What can you do indoors in an emergency situation? First you get alarmed, you get lost, you ask yourself a thousand questions… Then you ask yourself to react, not to succumb.

You read,you write, you activate the world that is in you. In that period was born “Sottosopra”.

It is the diary of a woman that tells the events from March-April 2020. But it is totally surreal: Napoli is invaded by the Saints. I wrote it starting from reading a play by Davide Morganti, a very talented Neapolitan writer. –

IP – In 2007 you have written the story, the screenplay and you also starred, with Lucianna De Falco and Carmen Giardina in “La Grande Menzogna”(the great lie)a short film by Carmen Giardina. Can you tell us something about this project? –

GM – “La Grande Menzogna”(the great lie) was born from the friendship and from the esteem that binds me to Lucianna de Falco. We have always played on the similarities they people often encounter in us. Lucianna is very reminiscent of Anna Magnani and I resemble Bette Davis.

How many times have we heard this! And so I invented a meeting between the two amazing actresses at Bette Davis’s house when Magnani is in America to collect the Oscar she won in 1955 for “La Rosa Tatuata”(the rose tattoo). They greet and hug each other by declaring mutual esteem and admiration, but their strong and competitive characters soon come to the surface and the compliments are transformed into insults. The interpretations of both are mangled by fierce criticisms, the snubs become insults up to scuffle. This fury necessitates the intervention of a nurse who discovers the game: we are in a mental hospital where two actresses, very similar to the 2 stars, sucked into depression for not seeing their talent recognized, stage the meeting of their myths with which they identify is infinite. –

IP – Do you have any plans for this coming Spring or Summer? –

GM – More than projects for the next few months, I have a hope: that the doors of theaters and cinemas will reopen. “Ferdinando”, “Sottosopra” and more are trampling to return to life. –