Rebibbia prison inmates perform Shakespeare

Gerald Bruneau. Photo from The Trip Mag

ROME - A visually stunning new book, containing images of Rebibbia penitentiary inmates performing Shakespeare's Othello, was presented at the Foreign Press Association Monday.

 The book reveals insider details of life inside the prison and captures the spirit of the inmates in images from veteran Rome-based French photographer Gerald Bruneau. The performance was directed by theatre expert and journalist Giancarlo Capozzoli and is explored in detail in parallel texts of Italian and French. The theatre is a space that can be used to discuss cultural and ideological questions, and the book looks at the fragility of the inmates as they soak up the freedom of dramatic space, while being detained physically inside prison walls. Other contributors to the work include the writer Erri De Luca, and experts in the world of incarceration.

 The photos capture the dynamism of the criminals, bearing their tattoos, markings, and grins eagerly to the camera. They smile, grimace, laugh, presenting their true selves unabashedly to the photographer. In some, they are topless and hugging friends. In others, they are pensive and stare directly into the lens.

 The creators of the work discussed their experiences of the project at a panel discussion Monday. The topics raised included the culture of respect that the workshops demanded. To allow the inmates to feel comfortable expressing their dramatic selves in original ways, they had to trust and respect the director, and visa versa. It was a two-way conversation between those taking part, and, according to the authors, it was a project that will have an impact on the participants for the rest of their lives.

 Giancarlo Capozzoli expressed the idea that the project was “a celebration” of the joy of theatre, and Gerald Bruneau spoke of the tangible moment of pure happiness when the inmates realised a photographer was dedicated solely to capturing their images and character.

Signora libertà. Signorina fantasia. Un racconto dal carcere

By Giancarlo Capozzoli and Gerald Bruneau

Editor: Universitalia (14 April 2017)

25 euros

198 pages