Guest blog: The Fever

Paola Dionisotti performs in The Fever by Wallace Shawn, directed by James Robert Carson, at The Barnfield Theatre Studio on Sunday 04 August at 7pm.

I have been obsessed by Wallace Shawn’s The Fever since 2010. I was about to head off halfway around the globe to Sydney, Australia, to visit my daughter who had accepted a work transfer there. I hunted for some material to take my mind off the trip. I wanted to see my daughter and I confess I was curious to visit a country populated overall, I was told, by immigrants (being one myself from Italy to England), but the prospect of a 28-hour flight filled me with foreboding. I had come to hate long-haul travel, except when working. I thought a script might distract me from the ghastly vicissitudes of international budget air travel.

The wonderful David Greig, in some of whose work I had the great pleasure of performing (Pyrenees for Paines Plough and his magnificent version of The Bacchae for National Theatre of Scotland) drew my attention to The Fever by Wallace Shawn. You can find it online, he said. So, I did just that and started reading.

The opening line: “I’m travelling”. Well, that seemed apt.

As I worked on it, images and sounds from my life, past and present, kept flooding in. It was scary and exciting at one and the same time. This was the start of a globetrotting journey. My daughter accepted another transfer. This time to Hong Kong. Deep in The Fever now…thinks: a place that was once part of the British Empire, how do they think of Britain? Cracks began to appear in my Eurocentric perception of the world.

For me, The Fever addresses not only my generation, but all the generations: the boom babies, Thatcher’s children, Blair’s babes, and the snowflakes.

The Fever addresses:

  • Those who love life.
  • Those who maybe have unexamined political and religious bigotries, of right, or left.
  • Those who hate and avoid any political affiliation.
  • Those for whom the globe is ever more ‘a village’.

Like many in the arts I am fascinated by the implications of this increasingly, apparently, global view of life…the easy virtual world.

My obsession with The Fever lies in its fearsome honesty. In the traveller’s courage and the forensic wit with which she confronts what is for the most part her unacknowledged collusion with this state of affairs. She analyses it and challenges it.

Wallace Shawn wants to make us question, think and act, which is why I want to share it with you all in Exeter, because thinking on your own can only get you so far. It would be amazing to be in a room full of all your exciting brains and loving hearts, so please do join me for what I hope you will find an exciting, igniting and impactful evening of theatre that won’t ever leave you!

Paola Dionisotti has worked on countless theatre productions over the last 50 years in an incredible array of theatres including: the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland, Citizens Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, Young Vic, The Royal Lyceum, Tron Theatre, Sheffield Crucible, Menier Chocolate Factory, Liverpool Playhouse, Nuffield Theatre, Ambassador’s Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Arcola Theatre, Bush Theatre, and the Gate Theatre.
Paola has also been a star of the silver screen too, with some recent highlights being in HBO’s Game of Thrones and the film Florence Foster Jenkins alongside Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

Dionisotti was winner of the Evening Standard Award 2000 for her performance in Further Than the Furthest Thing and was nominated for an Olivier Award for her role in The Taming of the Shrew in 1979.