Romeo Castellucci (born in 1960) says that 'theatre just happened to him'. He is believed to be one of the most important artists of the turn of the 20th century, but maintains that he never thought he would make theatre, 'it just so happened'. Everything began with performances organised together with friends during the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna - he graduated from Painting and Scenography there. The visual arts, and not theatre, were his natural environment. However, the performances turned soon more and more towards the theatrical stages. In 1981, together with his sister Claudia, wife-to-be Chiara and her brother Paolo Guidi the director founded Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, an association operating at the borders of theatre, performance and visual arts. It was to analyse potential theatrical expression outside of the narrative order. Teatro Comandini in an old factory in their hometown Cesena became the official premises of the association.
The name underlined the visual character of the group's work and its traditional Italian roots, as well as discipline and perfection so characteristic for the painting of the Renaissance artist. Socìetas notes however that the perfectionism is to be suspected. In Raphael's works, there is dirt, contradictions, and a prelude of disintegration typical for Baroque and not Renaissance. The painter joined the physical with the metaphysical, and death with rebirth. Similarly, in the work of Socìetas a human being is spread between crime and sanctity, pain and joy, and the will to create and destroy. Among the most well-known performances of the group there is Santa Sofia. Teatro Khmer (1985), Gilgamesh (1990), Amleto. La veemente esteriorità della morte di un mollusco (1992), Orestea (Una commedia organica?)(1995), Giulio Cesare (1997), Genesi: From the museum of sleep (1999), the Tragedia Endogonidia cycle (2002-2004), Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso based on Divine Comedy (2008), Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio (2010). Romeo Castellucci was responsible for the initial project, direction, scenography and costumes. Chiara Guidi managed voice works, Claudia - choreography and the intellectual environment of the plays. She wrote theoretical articles, participated in conferences and edited publications of the theatre. For over 25 years, Socìetas functioned as an extraordinary family institution, a phenomenon at the European theatre stage. Children of Romeo and Chiara participated in the performances. The mother of the Castelluccis also performed in several plays. Their sister, older by 10 years, works for Socìetas as well. Since 2006, however, Romeo, Claudia and Chiara have been making autonomous performances within the collective.
The basic tool of Romeo Castellucci is painting. It is the foundation of the theatrical language which is supposed to expand beyond the well-known and tamed reality, and bring us to the dimension of a fairy tale, dream and hallucination. According to the director, theatre is the art which has the utmost power and ability to suspend the reality around us. It lets us recreate the world anew, as it thinks up new laws, problems and people. The world is forced to accept its radical and scandalous creation, which is according to Socìetas sacrilege, as it makes something out of nothing. All the fields of knowledge connect to evoke a new world - music, medicine, science and philosophy are joined in a theatrical vision referring to the intimate experience of a spectator, their emotions and perhaps most importantly to their corporality. The intimate character of experience in the work of Romeo Castellucci is rooted in the so-called mythical period of Socìetas, when the artists focused on interpreting myths of ancient Mesopotamia and referred to the idea of mystery.
Not only Eleusis, but also the decorative art of Rome and late Baroque are influencing the imagination of the Italian director. Some of performative reading sessions called Oratoria organised in the 1980s and at the beginning of 1990s were devoted to ancient rhetoric. Together with Giulio Cesare they portrayed rhetoric not only as an art of persuasion, but also the ability to create things and build worlds with words. Mystery and rhetoric is the framework of references in Castellucci's theatre. The director uses the richness of the theatrical medium to surprise and abduct the spectator. He creates spectacular theatre with a variety of performance effects and tricks, a rhetorical theatre. 'Not only does theatre develop in a formal manner the rhetorical discourse (or vice versa), but also the rhetoric is substantially complete and concrete manner in which the matter may be approached and manipulated in theatre. Rhetoric accepts and reveals the corruption of theatre: looks at it in a merciless and indecent way; shows its true face which is fiction and decay. Rhetoric is cynical and doubly theatrical. It uses and explains theatre [...] Theatre's artificiality is assimilated and simultaneously rejected [...]'. The mystery plays and the rhetoric of Rome are decisive for the tensions that constitute the Italian director's theatre: tension between the word and image, idea and matter, and past and future.
The work of Romeo Castellucci has long been treated as an out of ordinary phenomenon. Today, the director belongs to the most important European artists. His theatre, however, remains a separate, special and extraordinary phenomenon. Castelucci's performances have been awarded with various prizes, including the Ubu prize (for the Julius Caesar in 1997 and the Tragedia Endogonidia cycle in 2004), European Prize for New Theatre (1998), and Grand Prix de la Critique-Paris for Genesi: From the museum of sleep (1999). The last one was also distinguished as the Best International Production at Dublin Theatre Festival in 2000. The Minister of Culture of the French Republic granted him the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (the Cavalier of Arts and Literature) in 2002. In 2010, the 'Le Monde' daily stated that Divine Comedy has been the most important cultural event in the first decade of the 21st century. A year later, the director received the Prix Europe Francophone prize from Syndicat de la critique Théâtre, Musique et Danse for directing the Parsifal opera of Richard Wagner at the Belgian national opera house La Monnaie/De Munt.
In 2005, Romeo Castellucci became the curator of the theatrical section of Venice Biennale, and in 2008 an associate artist at Avignon Festival - which means he co-creates the programme. He is going to come to Malta Festival for the third time. In 2002, he presented his Genesi: From the museum of sleep play based on the Bible, and in 2004 Voyage au bout de la nuit based on a novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline.