Pasolini’s Salò Redubbed review: Aims for greatness but falls significantly short

Dublin Theatre Festival: Despite the talented ensemble, neat staging and challenging concept, this production appears unconsidered

Pasolini’s Salò Redubbed: it aims for the jugular but comes across as self-indulgent. Photograph: Luca Truffarelli


Peacock Stage, Abbey Theatre
Good theatre entertains. Great theatre challenges. The line between greatness and failure and challenge and endurance is a very thin one. Unfortunately, Dylan Tighe's Pasolini's Salò Redubbed falls significantly short of greatness.

Tighe attempts to demonstrate the pornography of power in his hibernicisation of Pasolini's controversial 1975 film. The original film represents the end stages of fascism in the mid-20th century through the unrelenting and systemic sexual, physical, and mental abuse of minors.

Although 2019 is providing fertile ground for conversations around the rise of contemporary and historical fascism, Tighe’s production actually impedes the impact of these nuanced conversations by pounding the audience with convoluted rhetoric, mixed symbolism, and unnecessarily traumatising primary material.

A talented ensemble, consisting of Thomas Collins, Peter Gaynor, Lauren Larkin, Niamh McCann, Gina Moxley, Will O'Connell, and Daniel Reardon, redub the original film using Irish history as its frame of reference. The audience is presented with testimony from survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, industrial schools and of clerical child sex abuse. Closer to the present day there are echoes of child homelessness, direct provision, and even rape culture. There is inclusive and important representation across many marginalised groups, including the travelling community.

Pasolini’s Salò Redubbed: the cast of the Dylan Tighe and Abbey Theatre co-production. Photograph: Luca Truffarelli

The staging is neat and the actors’ timing is flawless and accurately reproduces the manic pace of the film. These characterisations are challenging and the commitment to the production by the ensemble is never in doubt. However, in an attempt to illustrate, and critique, the systemic dehumanisation of vulnerable citizens through this performance, Tighe has forgotten about the humanity of his audience.

This production aims for the jugular and comes across as self-indulgent and unconsidered. The audience-performance contract is a precious thing and traumatising your audience is not art, it is an abuse of power. The awareness of the fragility of this contract is present and is in fact built into the later moments of the production, but the decision to protect the audience, or even respect them, is made too late.

The roots of an interesting concept lie among the overwrought pretension of Pasolini’s Salò Redubbed, but it is hard to see them among the rubble.

Runs as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival until Saturday, 5th October