Featuring Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel

The Devil in Drag

(Il Diavolo con Zinne)

                                                        by Dario Fo

in a translation by Ed Emery

.First performed on 7th August 1997 at the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Messina, Sicily.


Alfonso Ferdinando de Tristano, the Judge ……  KATE WALKER

Pizzocca Ganassa, housekeeper to the Judge ……CHRISTOPHER LOGAN

Cardinal Ambone / Oarsman on galley……  KWAKU ANKOMAH

Francipante, a Master Devil / Oarsman on galley ….  PIETER LAWMAN

Barlocco, an apprentice Devil / Public (4) / Oarsman on galley       BRIAN LONSDALE

Jacoba Stareffa, lover of Captain of the Guard / Public (6) / Oarsman on galley…  LAURA-KATE GORDON

Cesare Trittico, elderly court usher and bandleader / Lion / Devil / Helmsman on  galley…  EDMUND KINGSLEY

First Guard / Crewman on galley…     ALEX BECKETT

Second Guard / Crewman on galley … BERTIE CARVEL

Geron de la Noci, a thief / Donkey / Devil / Public (3)… BEN WHISHAW

Zoanna, a young serving girl / Acolyte of Mirone (1) / Devil / Public (2) … CHIPO CHUNG

Clarissa, a young serving girl / Acolyte of Mirone (2) / Devil / Public (1)… LOUISE COLLINS

Simona, court clerk infatuated with the Judge / Devil / Hysterical Woman…. MARTHA HOWE-DOUGLAS

Inquisitor / Public in Act 1/ Devil / Acolyte of Mirone (3) / Oarsman on galley… EMILY GILCHRIST

Brother Mirone / Devil / Inquisitor’s Henchman / Public in Act 1… JUSTIN ADAMS

Blacksmith / Devil / Captain of the Guard / Public (5)… ROBERT HEANLEY


Programme Notes

Best known outside Italy for The Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1980), Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! (1981) and his one-man medieval show Mistero Buffo(1983), Dario Fo bears the dubious tag of “political” writer. One should be cautious about looking for neatly formulated messages. For Fo the politics is in the act of theatre itself. By creating their own company and breaking from commercial theatre, Fo and his wife Franca Rame, who has also collaborated on most of his plays, take theatre to the people in non-traditional locations such as labour halls, factories and market squares.

Theatre is for Fo a democratising arena where pretensions can be stripped and all topics are open for discussion. Like Arlecchino and the comic servants of the commedia dell’arte, he sides with the ordinary man against the wielders of power, mocking their pretensions and exposing their methods. Predictably this has not endeared him to the Italian authorities. He is not an intimate friend of Silvio Berlusconi…

Although the general setting for The Devil in Drag is the late sixteenth century, the political reference is to the Italy of the late 1980’s, shaken by corruption scandals implicating leading industrialists and politicians. In this climate there was – and continues to be – a need for magistrates with clean hands to oversee the judicial enquiries. A body of such magistrates did emerge, but they themselves became the target of media accusations – and bombs. In the original production the parts of the Judge and Pizzoca were played by Fo and Rame themselves.

Hugely popular in his own country, Fo remains the most widely performed Italian author abroad. A production of his  “Johan Padan and the Discovery of America” (1991) passed through Riverside Studios earlier this month. Awarded the Nobel prize in 1997, he famously spent the £500,000 on eighteen buses for the disabled.

The play was cut down by translator Ed Emery for the BT/National Connections youth theatre festival in 1999, abridged for length rather than content. About an hour’s worth of material has gone, including extra characters and some complicated sub-plotting. It is possible that the play might be the better for it.

  • Directed by Carl Heap
  • Written by Dario Fo
  • Theatre RADA
  • Year 2002