Franco Ruffini, Theatre and Boxing: The Actor Who Flies, translated by Paul Warrington, Icarus Publishing Enterprise and Routledge, 2014, pp. 184.

This book tells the story of a revolution in the work of the actor during the early and mid-20th century, a period in which the focus of theatrical interest shifted from the emotions to the body.

No longer viewed as a means of performing a choreography of gestures designed to please the spectator, the actor’s body became a tool for purveying a dynamic set of actions which often transformed the actor himself. Some even went so far as to see this transformation at a spiritual level. Naturally, this new centrality of the body also drew attention to those places in which the body is central: the gym, the boxing ring, and the circus with its trapezes and tightropes became, together with the stage, ‘laboratories’ for the theatre.

Thus, in addition to the reformers of the theatre - Stanislavski, Craig, Meyerhold, Copeau, Artaud, Eisenstein, Brecht, Decroux, Grotowski, and Barba - the pages of this book are filled with boxers, acrobats, gymnasts, and wrestlers, pursuers of an utopia: the ‘actor who flies’. This experience happens metaphorically in the perception of the spectator, and beyond the metaphor in the body’s perception of the actor himself.

Utopias take a long time to achieve and do not necessarily act in the open. Beneath the time of the historical evidence, which ended with the 20th century, flows another hidden time waiting for the moment to enable the utopia of the ‘actor who flies’ to emerge into the theatre of the 21st century.

Franco Ruffini teaches at Roma Tre University. He is a member of the scientific staff of ISTA, the International School of Theatre Anthropology, of which he is one of the founders together with Eugenio Barba. He sits on the Board of Editors of the journal Teatro e Storia. His publications include I teatri di Artaud. Crudeltà, corpo-mente (1996), Per piacere. Itinerari intorno al valore del teatro (2001), Stanislavskij. Dal lavoro dell’attore al lavoro su di sé (2003; revised edition 2005), Il filo rosso. Teatro e taccuini (1999-2006) (2007), Craig, Grotowski, Artaud. Teatro in stato d’invenzione (2009).