DARIO FO is the author of radical theatre classics such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! During Fo's 50-year career he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature-but he has also been arrested, had his house firebombed and been tried dozens of times for blasphemy and libel.
He performed at the opening ceremony of the first European Social Forum in Florence a year ago. His latest play, The Weird Two-Brainer, has provoked a political storm in Italy. The play starts with a summit meeting being attacked by terrorists. Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are seriously injured.
A group of transplant specialists decide that they can't save both, so they transplant what is left of Putin's brain into Berlusconi. The new Berlusconi keeps breaking into Russian and threatening to flatten Chechnya. Berlusconi's wife reconstructs his memory by recalling all his dodgy deals.
This has outraged Berlusconi and his ruling Forza Italia party. Dario Fo spoke to Tom Behan for Socialist Worker.
Why did you decide to write the play?
The political situation today is ridiculous and paradoxical. There are no rules any more. Berlusconi owns almost everything and controls what he doesn't own. This is what The Weird Two-Brainer talks about. Theatre owners have been pressurised to cancel performances of the play, but they have gone on. So why was a taped broadcast on a small satellite channel suddenly censored?
We suddenly got issued with a summons for libel. A senator from Forza Italia, Marcello Dell'Utri, has asked for one million euros in damages. Dell'Utri founded Forza Italia with Berlusconi ten years ago. So behind Dell'Utri's libel case, and all his other manoeuvres, Berlusconi is pulling the strings. Dell'Utri is just a stalking horse.
What they're frightened about is us appearing on television, because it is the most important means of mass communication. They don't want to give people news or information-they give them misinformation. All they try to do is make you feel happy. At the end of the day Berlusconi is a market trader trying to sell you his wares. And in the case of this small satellite channel we're talking about blackmail. Not only does Berlusconi own television stations, he also owns advertising companies, and this is what he is using. Berlusconi will stop at nothing. How do you think the legal case will end up?
I can't see us ever being brought to trial. They would need to find a really dodgy judge to get a conviction.
How are the shows going?
They're packed out. Take tonight's show in Bari. The theatre holds nearly 3,000 people and we're performing for two nights-but the number of booking requests means that we could have performed for six. The tickets sold out a month in advance-which never happens, even with the biggest musicals.
Do you see any differences between Blair and Berlusconi?
Basically we live in a world full of liars. For example, Blair went to war using a whole series of false 'intelligence'. Look around the world over the last 50 years. All they do is try to scare us and exaggerate the threat of terrorism-when really it's all about oil. They talk about freedom, but their freedom only floats on a sea of oil.
So how do we turn things round?
Firstly with information of any kind-theatre, books, meetings, anything. Secondly with demonstrations. Over the last two years I've seen some of the best demonstrations of my life-they're so colourful. Ultimately, though, people really need to start using their imagination.
Tom Behan's book Dario Fo: Revolutionary Theatre is available for £12.99 from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop-phone 020 7637 1848.