A dramatic monologue

by Dario Fo

translated by Ed Emery


For all queries regarding performance rights, please contact

Agenzia Tolnay : info [@] tolnayagency.it

For all queries regarding the text, please contact the translator at:

ed.emery [@]thefreeuniversity.net

Original text copyright © Dario Fo

Translation copyright © Ed Emery


[The Performance Text]

[Michele Lu Lanzone a Sicilian trade unionist, was killed by the Mafia in the 1930s. His story is told by his mother, from inside the mental hospital where she has been confined.]

The stage is bare, except for a stool, centre-stage, on which Michele's Mother sits.

Enter a woman, of no definable age: Michele's Mother. She is holding a rag doll, the size of a five-year-old child. She sit on the stool. She combs the child's hair, and rocks him in her arms.

The various voices are all performed by the one actress. The characters are portrayed by changes of tone and gesture – always epic, never naturalistic.

BOY: [Singing]

Michele Lu Lanzone,

Don't be a fool.

Leave the water to

Run where it must.

Down the road, there's

Trouble coming,

But stay out

Of the way.

True, there's no water

In your valley,

But there's no fighting spirit

Among the peasants.

MICHELE’S MOTHER: [Speaking] Please, please, keep out of this... [Singing] Or you're going to end up dead!

[Speaking, with a little laugh] Do you like that little song? It's nice, isn't it? They made it up for your dad – just for him! You know, your father was a really important person. When he walked down the road, all the peasants of the valley used to raise their hats to him. Not because they thought he was better than them – no! It was out of respect. Because your dad was the finest, bravest trade unionist in the whole valley.

THE CROWD: [Shouting from a distance] Michele... Long live Michele! Here's health and a long life to you!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: A long life... Michele, leave things be. They've already killed more than seventy trade unionists. Seventy of them, dead and buried... all because they got too involved, Michele, all because they sided with the peasants too much.

MICHELE: No! Times have changed! These days the Mafia has to lay low. They're on the defensive. They're under pressure from the Government Inquiry that's been set up. [Shouting] Don't you see? We've already forced them to break up the big landowner's property and hand over the land.

CROWD: But what are we supposed to do with that land, when we haven't got water? Even melons won't grow. Parched, everything's parched. They might as well give us the sands of the Libyan desert, for all the good that it'll do us!

MICHELE: There will be water! There will be water! All we need is for the dam to be built. The plans have already been approved. The Region has already voted the funds. It's only a matter of another couple of months.

I'm going now. I'm going to Palermo. I'm going with the mayors of every village in this valley. If necessary, you'll come too, with your wives, with your children... and we'll make our voices heard!

BOY: [Singing]

Michele Lu Lanzone – he's a Union man!

But Michele, Michele,

You're making us dance the goat dance!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Ha! "Let's do it," you say. "We shall do it"... "It's as good as done" – you sound like Moses in the wilderness: "Be patient!" ...Patience!!

And in the meantime we still have to go down to the Piana dei Greci, to work for the landowners, slaving on their farms. And our women too. And all our land is good for is for burying our dead. And our children? We have to send our children to work in the mines, in the salt mine, the sulphur mine, where they end up hunchbacked and stunted in their prime.

DISTANT VOICE: [Shouting] Michele, people are saying that the bosses have sent you here. Yes, that you're paid by them so as to keep us quiet with promises.

MICHELE: [Moving to the front of the stage] Who says so? Who?! Come out in the open! Say it to my face... [Shouting] .face to face! If you won't, then you're a lily-livered son of a bastard!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: [Speaking] Don't get angry, Michele. Let it be. This isn't the job for you. It's hard to be a union leader – you have to be cut out for it, you have to be born to it, you have to know what you're doing.

CROWD: [Shouting] Every family's going to receive three bags of flour from the Government! It's election time. "That'll keep them quiet for a bit".

MICHELE: [Speaking] No! No! This is precisely the moment when we must move. Now! It's time to go and make our presence felt... [Shouting] ...Now!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Michele, leave things be. Michele, you'll end up destroying destroy yourself.

MICHELE: But don't you understand that it's the bosses that don't want to let us have the dam? It's them who are blocking everything... because with a dam there, the whole valley would become green and fertile. We would have so much water that we could even wash our feet in it! And we could have fountains in our village squares, like they do in Palermo! You see? Then you could live the good life, farming your land. All of you. And you'd be earning for yourselves, living off your own land! And then, tell me, where would the bosses find labourers to work for them on starvation wages, like they have up till now? And what about the sulphur mine? And the salt mine? Do you think that we'd go and slave in the mines any more, getting sores all over our bodies, like lepers? No! They'd be forced to close! That's why. That's the reason they don't want you to have this dam, even if it means the whole of Sicily blowing sky-high, because whatever happens, they're determined to keep you POOR... and starving.

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Michele, stop it. Keep quiet; don't step out of line, Michele – they'll kill you...

MICHELE: No! We – us! – we're going to make Sicily rise up! It's time we stopped being frightened. We Sicilians are capable of killing to avenge dishonour... But I ask you, isn't this a dishonour? To be beggars? To be hungry? To be exploited? Let's go. Let's all go to Palermo. Let's go and grab those bastards by their miserable throats.

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Ah, you should have seen him, Cenzino... your father, right at the front of the march, marching proud, like the Bold Rinaldo with his two swords! And right behind him came the peasants, some of them on mules, some of them on donkeys, with their banners and placards, shouting and singing. They were going down to Palermo. They were like flowing lava from the volcano.

BOY: [Singing] Palermo, Palermo...

Here we come...!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: But they never made it. The police arrived, by the truckload. The bosses were watching the scene from their villas, with binoculars. They beat them, Cenzino... beat them, with their rifle butts. There were over a thousand of them. Your dad was taken off to prison – broken arm and all. They sentenced him to 12 months in jail.

Michele... Michele... Why are you doing all this? Michele, leave things be. You're getting too involved. What's the use? The peasants have always been under bosses. They're resigned to it. Don't start stirring them up. No – you'll see, the employers will make you pay for it.

[She goes and huddles at the back of the stage]

BOY: [Singing]

Michele Lu Lanzone,

don't be a fool.

Let the water run

where it must.

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Yes, but then your father came out of prison. Yes he did. But he didn't give up, no! He's stubborn, like a dog with a bone. Now he began spending all his time studying old maps at the Land Registry. One evening he came home, singing and shouting:

MICHELE: Look what I've found! An old map! Heaven knows how old... from before the time of the Bourbons, probably... Maybe even from the time of the Arabs. Here – look! There's a spring marked here, at the head of our valley. It was blocked by a rockfall. Maybe... maybe it was a really big stream. Maybe it's still there. All we have to do is unblock it hole, and open it up...

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Leave it be, Michele. Don't be a fool. Don't get involved. If nobody's ever uncovered that spring, there must be a reason for it. Forget it, Michele.

A couple of days later – it was a Sunday – all the peasants set off, with their picks and shovels. The workers from the mine were with them too. And their wives, carrying earth in baskets balanced on their heads. And the old people – in fact a couple of them had a guitar and an accordeon, and played and sang for us, and we worked, almost as if we were dancing

BOY: The time of the red berries will come...

And I want to kiss the girls' red mouths...

MICHELE’S MOTHER: All of a sudden – it wasn't even midday – a shout went up. They'd found it! The hole was there – they'd found the spring! It was blocked with fallen bricks, the same sort of bricks they used in the olden days. Cenzino, you should have seen it! Everyone dived in at once, and started trying to dig. But they had to take it in turns, because there was only room for one person at a time... We formed a human chain, to pass out the bricks. And we sang.

BOY: [Singing]

Hopla! Hopla! Toss me a kiss and go!

The time of the red berries will come...

And I want to kiss the girls' red mouths...

MICHELE’S MOTHER: Water! Water! It's coming! It's beginning to flow! You should have seen it, Cenzino. A jet of water – incredible – like thirty fountains all rolled into one! And there they all were, men and women, like crazy, running under the water and getting themselves soaked to the skin! Everyone jumping about and laughing. Water! Water! How good it was to have water.

BOY: [Singing]

The time of the red berries will come...

And I want to kiss the girls' red mouths...

MICHELE’S MOTHER: We were drunk with it, drunk with water!

CROWD: They can keep their dam. We don't need it any more. This stream will be enough to water the whole valley... every bit of farmland, and the pastures too. Our corn won't get parched any more. And who's going to go and work in the mine, now? They can shut that rathole now. It can close, for all we care!

MICHELE’S MOTHER: But the next day, some of the women came up the road, crying. "The spring has stopped running. It's run dry already." The peasants went running to look. "No, no... something's blocked the hole." They started digging... digging...

They dug down, and they pulled out what was blocking it. It was... Michele... your father. He'd been killed, and they'd jammed him down there like a plug.

[Desperate] Michele! Take care! You don't have to all this, Michele! The peasants are resigned to their lot... they always have been. [Shouting] Justice! Yes – I want justice! In God's name, is there no justice? Yes, by God – there was! They arrested them – the ones who'd killed my son. They put them in handcuffs and sent them for trial. Twice! And twice they found them not guilty and set them free. All of them. And the poor devils who knew who had done it, and who went to give evidence at the trial, they too were found dead, killed, with their tongues cut out. [Desperate] Michele...

You must give up, Michele... We must have patience... patience! [With a terrible anger] Patience! Wait till the lava flows. Yes – the red lava of the volcano, that will burn everything in its path – everything – the bosses, those who defend them, those who protect them, everything! Everything must burn – everything!

The lava... here it comes! It's red. It's burning. Run, run! No – you can't escape. Pigs, you filthy pigs! Now go and call on the law to protect you! Now go and call your judges, to defend you! [Shouting] Pigs! You're all going to burn! Pigs!

Michele – we've won! Michele... Michele...

BOY: [Singing]

Michele Lu Lanzone -

Don't be a fool.

Leave the water to run

Where it must.

Down the road, there's

Trouble coming

But stay

Out of the way!



[Last edited: 4.vii.2012]


All rights reserved. This text shall not by way of trade or otherwise be copied, reproduced or recorded in a retrieval system. Nor shall it be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the owners' specific written consent.

Please be aware that this translation can only be performed with explicit permission in writing from the agency representing Dario Fo and Franca Rame, the Danesi-Tolnay agency in Rome.

Last updated: 4.viii.2012

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