City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Pugni Di Zolfo – Fists Of Sulfur Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 13 August 2013

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Zoo Southside
Maurizio Lombardi
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Maurizio Lombardi
Maurizio Lombardi

An intense sulphuric light emanates from this one-man show by Florentine actor Maurizio Lombardi. It was performed in its original Italian at the Italian Institute on Monday 12th August.

Set in the early ‘30’s, Pugni di Zolfo (Fists of Sulfur) (sic) is the story of a boxer Vincenzo, known as the Sicilian Bull. To the harsh sounds of a baying crowd, Lombardi sits in red satin boxing shorts after a devastating defeat at a championship challenge in the US. Recovering alone in his dressing-room, he whistles a lullaby his mother used to sing to him. The song takes him far into the depths of his childhood memories of the carusi, the child workers who dug for sulphur in Sicilian mines.

In physical and mental anguish, Vincenzo goes through the post-fight analyses with his coach Alfredo before drifting into a Proustian past as he whistles an old lullaby.

He sits on a table, filmed in sweat, slowly unwinding his bandages and unlacing his boots. With only the darkness for a dressing room, he removes the shorts and appears in a loincloth. He crawls under the table legs that become a mine shaft lit by candles in various stages of burning where he and Vito, two carusi (a Sicilian word for young boys) are mining in the cramped conditions for sulphur.

Lombardi acts out each different character throughout and has given these children, robbed of boyhood in the mines, dreams of love and of a life on the open sea where anchovies and girls like the desired Antonella can be caught. But these dreams are ended when disaster strikes and Vito loses his life.

Vincenzo had become a boxer to escape the horrors of the harsh and pitiless underground work, swapping one set of harsh conditions for another, but their ghosts are part of him, haunting him in his vulnerable hour.

This is a beautifully woven together piece of writing that is passionately performed and exposing the scandalous practise of child labour within living memory. A gloves off, bare knuckled reminder of the hideous things that go on in the world.

Pugni Di Zolfo, which was the Winner of the 2013 Florence for Fringe competition organised by the Italian Cultural Institute of Edinburgh, is part of Impatto Totale, a showcase of Italian theatre at this year’s Fringe organised and co-ordinated by Dr Stefania Del Bravo, the director of Edinburgh’s Italian Cultural Institute.

The drama was inspired by a 1953 poem by Ignazio Buttitta, A li Matri di li Carusi (To the Mothers of the Carusi), a damning indictment of the exploitation of hundreds of children, nearly two and half thousands of whom are recorded in 1894 alone as labouring in the Favara mine in the Sicilian province of Agrigento.

Show times

2-26 August (not 12 or 21), 8.30pm


£8 (£6)

Suitability PG