Alberto Milazzo’s moving drama confronts mental illness with sensitivity and humour.
When it comes to mental health issues and LGBTQ+ representation in film and theatre, we are all too often presented with the same old stereotypical characterisations that fail to explore the multitude of complex identities and human experiences in both areas that would be far more interesting for audiences to reflect on. This is why I recommend You Are Beauty: a play by Alberto Milazzo, which is one of those rare gems where someone with knowledge and experience of the issues at hand is able to create an authentic piece of art which can entertain and challenge misconceptions in equal measure.
Showing from 21 October to 6 November 2022 at Teatro Litta in Milan, the critically acclaimed Tue Sei La Bellezza (which translates to You Are Beauty), tells the story of playwright Andrea and his husband Leonard.
Synopsis of Tue Sei La Bellezza (You Are Beauty)
During the Covid pandemic, Andrea and Leonard are spending New Year’s Eve at home, alone in their apartment. The rest of the building is empty, the other residents have all fled, returning to their family homes outside of the city.
For New Year’s Eve, the premiere of Andrea’s latest play is being live-streamed online. The pandemic has placed huge challenges on the entertainment world and this first theatrical livestream has been planned to send a message of hope to the industry.
As the play begins, Andrea and Leonard are thanking the online audience who connected to the livestream, before closing their laptop, satisfied.
Leonard is a bookshop owner, who moved to Italy from England to be with Andrea. Andrea’s new play is inspired by Leonard.
Leonard was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago. Andrea wrote his play to highlight the complications the pandemic has thrust upon people with psychiatric frailties like Leonard.
Between Andrea and Leonard there is third wheel in the relationship – the figure of a dog, which they call “Churchill’s dog” or just Churchill. (Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as “the black dog” in his personal diaries).
Only Leonard can see Churchill, but Andrea has grown accustomed to having him around, almost like a real-life dog, even going so far as to buy him a lead.
The couple will have to deal with Churchill more than ever during the pandemic, because their canine companion has never been as ferocious as he is now.
An authentic depiction of bipolar disorder
When writing his script for Tu Sei La Bellezza, Milazzo consulted two mental health organisations, the Sacco del Fatebenefratelli hospital of psychiatry, and the Amici della Mente association, both in Milan. Milazzo wanted to ensure his story and characters represented an accurate reflection of the general characteristics and conversations one might expect to see in real life.
The result is a play that talks about depression and bipolar disorder without being depressing, about queer love without reducing queer relationships to a stereotype, and a play that exposes vulnerabilities, fragilities, and pain sensitively, freeing the audience from misconceived prejudices and ideas.
Tue Sei La Bellezza is an Italian language production. Milazzo plans to translate his script to English with a view to stage the play for English-speaking audiences. Teatro Litta is planning a national tour of the production in 2023.
Script and direction, Alberto Milazzo | with Giuseppe Lanino and Alessandro Quattro | A production of MTM Teatro Litta | Scenographer Guido Buganza | Costumes by MSGM | Poster image “Annunciation 2018” by Gonzalo Orquin, (90×70, oil on canvas)
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Winner of the Carlo Annoni International LGBTQ+ Drama Prize 2021
About Alberto Milazzo
Alberto Milazzo is an Italian novelist, playwright, director, translator, political commentator, and LGBTQ+ campaigner. His debut novel Uomini e Insetti (Men and Insects) was published by Mondadori in April 2015. His follow up, La Morale del Centrino (The Moral of the Doily), published by SEM, was adapted for an award-winning stage production, Aspettando Manon (Waiting for Manon), which played to sell-out audiences at Teatro Libero, Palermo, and Teatro Elfo Puccini, Milan in 2019. Alberto has also written several short stories and plays, including works commissioned by Teatro Eliseo in Rome, and the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. Alberto divides his time living between Milan, Palermo, and London.
I owe it to readers to confess that Alberto Milazzo is my husband; this review may therefore be somewhat biased 😉
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