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Persona Metropolitana review: An exhilarating love song to the nature of cities

Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: Evocative, thoughtful, entertaining and uplifting about the nature of urban life

Annachiara Vispi and Giulia Macrì in Persona Metropolitana. Photograph: Elena Costa

Persona Metropolitana

Smock Alley Theatre – Black Box

This meditation on the individual and alienation in busy, crowded urban environments becomes a kind of exhilarating love song to the nature of cities, and how we find and protect our place in them.

As the audience enters, actor Ciara Berkeley engages in low-key chat about how people travelled there. On a spare set loosely indicative of a train carriage, on any transport system in any city, the large video screen dominates writer/director Annachiara Vispi’s piece as dancer Giulia Macrì evokes the urban experience Berkeley talks about. Sound designer and composer Lorenzo Saini mixes the soundtrack, and stage manager Jack Scott Shanley projects a constant videotrack of city trains and stations (Rome metro/Paris RER line/New York subway/Tube/Dart), but also crowds and movement and action. This is city life as represented by public transport, from the quiet contemplation of other travellers’ lives, to isolation in your own world, as all around you is faster, busier, noisier.

The universality is striking, and enveloping. Originally created by Dublin-based Italian Vispi and choreographer Macrì in Rome, it has been re-created and translated for a Dublin audience.

More than half of us live in a city, and the starting point here is that by 2050 almost 70 per cent, or two-thirds of earth’s inhabitants, will live in a city. Macrì, via train-swaying, rushed movements, crowd-mangles and blank-commuter-faces, wonders if we’ll all fit.


Should it all be this hard, muses Berkeley, as metropolitana races towards trance.

And yet, we learn to make the city our own. A city changes over time; Vispi’s script describes cities beautifully as “like the second hand objects we keep passing down to each other”. Ultimately, within the city, “you learn to sway with the rhythm of it. And you learn to take care of your space”.

This is evocative, thoughtful, entertaining and uplifting about the nature of urban life, in any and every city.

Continues at Smock Alley Theatre, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival, until September 23rd

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times