Written by the agitprop and comedic mastermind Dario Fo, Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas is Hoy Polloy and Terra Incognita’s re-telling of the Christopher Columbus voyage. The story follows one Venetian fugitive, Johan Padan (Steve Gome) an unwitting explorer, who meets hundreds of characters, learns new languages and imparts some all-important lessons on love, power and the clash of cultures.
In typical Fo fashion, the performance is in the style of Teatro di narrazione (narrative theatre), where the storyteller is equipped with nothing but his body and his fantastic tale. In this instance, the audience are positioned in the round of the large fortyfivedownstairs space while Gome bounces from corner to corner, telling the story of Padan with so much freedom and energy that it is actually difficult to disengage.
Gome’s physical expressiveness is disarming and sucks the audience into the narrative. Soon it becomes clear that the sparseness of the stage is immaterial, as the world Gome paints in the imagination of the audience springs out into the space he inhabits.
The show runs for approximately two hours, yet the pace never slows and the brief interval (literally five minutes) means that the rhythm and the world created by the story never has a chance to evaporate from our minds. Mario Priovano’s translation keeps a lot of Fo’s great comedy and rhythm, alongside the various bursts of Spanish that spring from Padan’s monologue.
Johan Padan is a remarkable piece of theatre: charming, cheeky and delicate.