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By Dario Fo
Translated by Ed Emery
London: Oberon Books, 1997
ISBN # 1-870259-58-0
146 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
August 2013

Dario Fo writes marvelously crazy, funny plays which challenge the social order and not so subtly call for radical changes that would make us a more caring and loving society. Along the way he creates utterly wild scenes that are as socially challenging as they are funny. He’s a delight to read, but the reader has to give him or herself over to his impossible world.


This is a mad cap hilarious play. While being very funny and insanely impossible, it still makes serious points of social criticism which are all the more powerful having been put into this nutty scene.

When the play opens the Pope is hiding in his room which overlooks Vatican Square. He is awaiting a doctor who is coming to see him. It turns out it is a doctor and his “nun” assistant who is also a chain smoker. At the same time the Pope is expected to go out on his balcony to greet thousands of Third World children who have been brought to Rome to see the Pope. The media are there and everyone is expectant. The cardinal who serves the Pope is having a fit since the media and the children are being kept waiting.

Ah, but the Pope has a reason for his mental state. He knows, or at least thinks he knows, that this event has been planned to embarrass the Pope, the Church and the Vatican. The organizers are opposed to the Church’s rules on abortion, contraception and related practices and are planning to announce to the watching world that since it is the Pope and Vatican which have brought about this mass of children who have no hope or families who can care for them, that they will NOW at this very second “give” these children to the Pope to take under his care. The plan then is to simply leave the children in the square to be cared for and raised by the Vatican. The Pope is simply lost as what to do, but knows he just can’t go out on the balcony to allow this trap to be sprung. Thus he has called the physician to aid him.

The scene in his Vatican apartment is pure slapstick of the craziest sort. The physician is real, but his nurse, seemingly a nun in habit, is actually a witch and can cure in mysterious ways which in the Pope’s case means with some crazy devise which has him suspended in the air. It all just wild.

Soon a new issue in social/political thought is introduced -- drugs and to a lesser extent alcohol. It turns out the nun/nurse/witch actually runs a place for children dope addicts which provides them free drugs in a planned program to slowly get them off drugs. The Pope has some relapse of his troubles and goes to this “clinic” to seek help, dressed in disguise from the public. Now the play deals with the entire program of how she plans to help both the children and even an old alcoholic as well. It both very funny and yet challenges many of the standard views on these problems of drugs and alcohol.

It only gets more crazy as it turns out she has a “donor” who is giving her the drugs free, by stealing them, and the real drug traffickers from whom the thief is stealing the drugs are the police in charge of drug offenses.

All these exotic happenings come together is a huge finale which is just as zany as the rest of the play. It is a delight to read, very funny, having me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, and yet it was intellectually and socially challenging at the same time. It is a wonderful read. The last line of the play is a quote attributed to St. Augustine: “Woe betide that man of power who takes the side of those who have no power.” I presume this is the last little stab of irony from Dario Fo


The book contains a short second piece which has no relationship to the play, but is in the same mode. The baby Jesus is born and has super powers, so he uses these to deal with bullies who pick on the smaller kids. Jesus, of course, has these super powers and is able to put the bullies in place with ease. As in the earlier play it is a work that uses impossible happenings, makes us laugh and yet makes a point on the strange ways human hurt one another.

Bob Corbett


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