Stephen Atkins, “Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell” (2010)


“Now in a third year of collaborating with Brisbane-based Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, Human Theatre director Stephen Atkins delves into another classic with the premiere physical theatre company of Australia. Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell takes the audience on a promenade theatre experience, walking in Dante’s footsteps and lighting up another sold-out ‘In The Raw’ season with the company.
The project was conceived, scripted and rehearsed through the collaborative efforts of nineteen performers, two music composers and three choreographers. Based on Atkins’ adaptation, the performers created scenarios and vignettes illustrating the strata of the Inferno. Dante pulled no punches in the original 13th century poem, writing it entirely in the vernacular Italian language (instead of Latin) and populating hell with the corrupt popes, politicians and merchants of his own time; subjecting them to ironic and satirical punishments. It was meant to be a poem for the people, not the learned few; a dark comedy with a poignant message.
In this adaptation, the audience is lead through hell by two entrepreneurial tour guides who offer a ‘walking tour of the underworld’ while up-selling the audience on merchandise. As the evening progresses, the tables turn and the audience must fend for itself, guided by a heavenly angel through the City of Dis. In the end, evil is contemplated through the lens of the modern, contemporary world, bringing hell closer to home. Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell played for two weeks in Brisbane’s historic Old Museum.”    —Human Theater Collective (retrieved on August 23, 2010)

Contributed by Helena Miscioscia