A dramatic monologue
by Dario Fo
translated by Ed Emery
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Original text copyright © Dario Fo
Translation copyright © Ed Emery
[The Performance Text]
[The following account is taken from a personal testimony made by a legendary partisan of the Upper Po valley, around Pavia Ė Mamma Togni.]
"Mamma Togni... Mamma Togni, the Fascists are in the streets at Monte Beccaria; they want to hold a public meeting in the square!"
Two young lads from downstairs came up to call me...
"Who going to be talking? Whoís the fascist?"
"That bastard! Letís go... letís go! Wait while I get my stick, though... Iíve got a swollen ankle, Iíll need it."
Now I see why those two party comrades called round earlier. They wanted to be sure that nobody had been round to tell me... They tell me: "Youíre old, donít get involved... Something might happen to you... But most of all, donít let people try to make use of you. Stay at home... Donít get involved." But I say that when it comes to Fascists, Iím never too old! So letís go. And whatís all this nonsense about not letting myself be used? Against the Fascists? Those blackshirt bastards who have the nerve to come and make their vile speeches in the same square where they killed fourteen of our kids right before their mothersí eyes? Come on, letís go!!
When I arrived up at the main square, there was a handful of people hanging round the platform, and carabinieri all over the place. I told the lads who were with me: "You stay here, donít you dare move."
"No, Mamma Togni. Weíre coming with you."
"No, you shut up and stay there. Otherwise Iím going back. Iíll go on my own, because they wonít dare touch me."
So I hobbled over with my stick... And I made my way to the platform...
"Excuse me, excuse me..." Up on the platform, wrapped round the microphone so tightly that he looked like he was trying to eat it, was that bastard Servello, and he was shouting and waving his arms around like a policeman in the rush hour.
I gave the mike stand a whack with my stick, so that the microphone almost smashed his teeth, and then I started singing:
"You blackshirt bastards,
You came to kill us yesterday,
And now here you are again!"
For a moment, Servello stopped bawling down the microphone, and he looked at me. Then he carried on with his speech. So I started singing again, and he lost his thread. From the back of the square, under the arcades, the lads started singing too! Then I lifted my stick and gave him a good whack, right on the knee, which had him yowling like a scalded cat!
At this point, the captain of the carabineri comes over to me, takes me by the arm, and says: "Excuse me, madam, what on earth do you think youíre doing? I could have you arrested for breach of the peace, you know, because youíre disturbing a public meeting."
"On the contrary, my dear lieutenant," (I decided to downgrade him a couple of ranks) "itís the public meeting which is disturbing me, because these characters are the self-same murderers who came here and gunned down our kids like dogs, even though they hadnít done anything... As a reprisal..."
"Thatís as maybe... But now they have official permission to speak..."
"Permission from whom? From the mothers of the young people they shot? Hey, come on, you mothers of Monte Beccaria! Did they ask your permission to come and put on this disgusting display? Iím talking to you! Come out from under the arches... Come and tell him what happened."
"Please, madam, will you stop that, because otherwise I shall be obliged to have you removed."
"Oh yes? You so much as lay a hand on me, and Iíll faint. Iím telling you... And then youíre going to need at least ten men to lift me, because I weigh a good ninety kilos! Donít say I didnít warn you!"
"Well," said the captain, "well, if it comes to that, I have seventy men at my disposal."
"Seventy men? Wonderful! You need seventy men to protect this dirty murderous bastard, soís he can speak here? The fact is that honest people in this town donít need police protection if they want to make speeches in public... We communists can make speeches here at any time of day or night, and we donít need police to guard us! The fact is that youíre forcing this shithead Servello down our throats."
"You mustnít say that. Heís a senator."
"A senator? A senator of our Republic that was created by the Resistance? Ha! Ladies and gentlemen, did you hear that? Is this what our sons and our husbands were killed for? Is this why they died for the Liberation of Italy? So as to bring us a republic with a Senate where these sons of bitches can go and start spreading their filth again?"
"Now thatís enough, madam. I shall be forced to remove you."
"No. If you are an honest man, you remove that bastard there, because if you donít, then I will, with my stick. Because you might have hearts and guts like soggy semolina... Iím talking to you, men and women of Monte Beccaria... but Iím not prepared to stand here and let them insult the memory of my son, whom they killed, as if it was yesterday, and my husband who died in 1923, when these fascists beat him and beat him till he ended up coughing his own lungs up..."
By now I was shouting so much that I hardly knew what I was saying. Anyway, from the back of the square, two or three men started to move forwards, and a few women, and the lads too, even though Iíd told them to stay where they were. At that point the carabineri suddenly went mad... They started charging the kids, and beating them down in some kind of blind fury. And there was the captain, with two of his men, pushing me away, because by now there was such confusion that they thought they could get away with it, and they gave me bruises on my shoulders and my back which I still have to this moment... But at the time I didnít even feel them... I was worried for the lads. I was shouting: "Stop it!! You scum!! Why pick on them? What have they done? Leave them alone, you Nazis! Fascists!"
Three or four of the young people had ended up on the ground with bleeding heads, and the police were still kicking hell out of them. Then they tossed eleven of them into the police wagon.
"Where are they taking the kids...? Down to the police station... Somebody get a car... Take me to the police station at once... And you others, go and contact one of our lawyers..."
I arrived at the police station, and went up, together with one of our Party members, a town councillor, to try to convince the constable at the door to let me talk with his Chief, or with anyone, so as to explain our side of what had happened.
All of a sudden the constable pretended that somebody had punched him, and he dived to the ground. As if heíd been knocked unconscious! I was no more than three feet away from the man, and I swear nobody had touched him. But all of a sudden, about fifty carabinieri dived on us, and they beat our councillor around the head so badly that blood was flowing everywhere... I started shouting: "You bastards Ė youíve set this up deliberately... Murderers... Fascists!"
So they grabbed hold of me, bundled me up, and carried me off inside. I was to be charged straight away.
While they were taking down my details, I could hear voices out in the street Ė all our comrades, shouting: "Free Mamma Togni...! Free Mamma Togni...!" It was lovely to hear them. I felt so good that I would happily have signed up to get arrested every day! Anyway, at this point the superintendent came in, and he didnít notice that I was there, because I was hidden by the door. He was shouting: "What silly bastard decided to lock up the Togni woman? What on earth were you thinking of? Thereíd have been less of a fuss if youíd arrested the President of the Republic in person!!" And I began singing to myself, casually:
"You bastard blackshirt fascists,
You came to kill us yesterday,
And now here you are again!"
They all went very quiet, and more or less tiptoed out of the room because they couldnít face staying there. The only one who stayed was a young constable, who looked at me with a sort of half smile, as if he was embarrassed.
"Iíve heard all about you, signora," he said, "because my dad was a commander during the Resistance, in the Liguria mountains."
"Was he in Lazagnaís division?"
"And what was your fatherís name?"
"Mirko... Mirko was his battle name."
"But Mirkoís dead. They shot him...!"
"Yes, thatís right... I was only three when they killed him."
"He was a good man, Mirko. Your father was a good partisan... And now youíve joined the carabinieri? Well done, son! Youíve joined the boss class!"
He lowered his eyes, and turned pale... Or maybe thatís just the way it seemed, because carabinieri always look pale, to me. Anyway, the trial was a farce. The judgeís main concern was to get me out of the way, so that he could lay the blame on the kids and lock them away. It was completely ludicrous.
"Madam, I am sure that you were only there in the square by accident... werenít you? You happened to be passing... And anyway," (he was trying to help me, here, putting words into my mouth) "when your stick hit the microphone, and the senatorís knee, it was an accident, wasnít it...?"
"It wasnít an accident at all! I did it deliberately. Iíd have hit him over the head too, if Iíd had the chance, and whatís more, the next time that pig of a fascist comes, Iíll break his head open."
"I must ask you not to talk like that... I realise that youíre rather upset..."
"Not a bit of it. Iím very calm and relaxed."
"No, you are upset. In the same way that you were obviously upset when you started calling the police pigs and fascists, and so ended up exciting these young hooligans!"
"No. To start with, the real troublemakers were the police, and not the young people. Whatís more those police have a very strange way of arresting people... kicking them and booting them in the head as if theyíre playing football...!"
"Alright... But you do realise that itís against the law to shout things like ĎFascistsí and ĎPigsí?"
"Of course I realise... But in the old days when we were up in the mountains, those of us who ended up up against a wall died in the belief that after the Liberation those who were killing them would no longer be around... But far from it. Here they all are, in charge of the riot police. I called them fascist swine then, and I call them swine and fascists now!"
The judge turned pale... He didnít know what to say... but I had realised that the only way to get our people off the hook was for me to go in as hard as I could. Obviously they wouldnít dare sentence me, because they would end up looking stupid. So they had to abandon the trial, and let them all go free... At least for the moment.
What a party it was when we came out. Everybody was there, all the comrades, and we were all kissing and hugging and singing. It was "Mamma Togni" here, "Mamma Togni" there... and people taking me by the arm, and greeting me with clenched fists. It was wonderful. Like a big party... Like the Liberation all over again! What a shame that my boy wasnít there to see it. "Mum," heíd said, "if for any reason I donít come back, you must stay with the comrades until itís over, you hold out with them."
"Yes, son, I will..."
"And how could I possibly have left them? I was a nurse, Iíd done my exams, and, without wanting to boast, I was good. I had upwards of fifty wounded men that I was looking after in the sanatorium. I remember when the Germans came round on their raids... People were trying to persuade me to lie low... theyíd found me a job in a hospital... but Iíd rather have died... I took my thirty-two wounded lads, and we hobbled off... The ones who were limping were helping the ones who couldnít see; and one who had a stomach wound was being carried on a stretcher by two others who had bandages round their heads... We looked like a gang of desperadoes, but we went on, and I actually managed to save them. I saved all of them. The real problem was finding find enough food every day, enough for thirty-two men to be able to eat, day after day... So I would leave them in a barn somewhere, or under a bridge, and I set off searching for food. House to house. And everywhere, even though they had almost nothing left, these peasants, these mountain people, were still willing to take the food out of their own mouths in order to help us... They tore up their sheets too, to give me bandages for the wounded. Their best bed linen, even... But on occasion it happened that I went to ask for help from well-to-do families, in the towns, and they used to say, "No, we canít give you anything." So I would suddenly pull out my P.38 pistol, with its fifteen rounds, and I would stick it under their noses and shout: "Alright. Seeing that youíre so mean, now youíre going to give me everything Iím asking for, because otherwise Iím going to kill you. Shame on you Ė because these boys are dying for you too!"
So, you see, I even went robbing to save my lads. Does anyone object? Because I can tell you, I would do the same again today. My lads... I was a mother to them... Mamma Togni, they called me. God help anyone who laid a finger on Mamma Togni. They used to say: "Nobody ever says no to Mamma Togni!"
And they all used to do what I told them!
On a Spring day in 1944, my son was part of a group that went off to attack the barracks of the fascists. An hour later I saw Ciro coming back, white as a sheet. He said:
"Theyíve wounded him. Your sonís been wounded."
"Stand there, Ciro. Look me in the eye. I wonít cry. I wonít scream... Just look me in the eye... Heís dead, isnít he. I know heís dead."
Two of them carried him up to me, in their arms.
I sat myself down, and they put him on my knee. He had a little bullet hole here, in his neck. Then the comrades took him away for me... They took him off, and I went inside, into the big room where all my wounded lads were. I told them: "Listen, boys, my sonís been killed. Now I no longer have anyone to call me mother... And I... I need..."
There was a long silence, and then they all shouted: "Youíre our mum!" And they were calling me "Mamma", with tears in their eyes.
And so it was that everyone came to know me as Mamma Togni. And donít let them come telling me: "Youíre too old, donít go getting involved... youíve already done your bit."
No, for as long as these murderers are around, these fascists, we have to go out in the streets, and tell the young people what we know. We have to tell them what happened in the old days, up in the mountains, because that way they will learn. No, donít let them come telling me to stay at home because Iím too old. Youíre only too old when you decide that youíd rather stay at home with your feet in front of the fire just like they want you too.
At that point youíre old... In fact youíre as good as dead!
Note: This piece was played for the first time in one of the main squares of Pavia, on 25 April 1971. It was published as part of The People's War in Chile (Guerra di popolo in Cile) (Einaudi, 1973).
[Last edited: 4.viii.2012]
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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