Due to the strikes which, from 1943 onwards, paralysed the large-scale factories of the Milan area, the workers’ housing areas of Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, Cinisello and the surrounding areas bore witness to ruthless round-ups. Hundreds of men were taken away from their loved ones, forced to dress quickly, never to be seen again. Scenes which remained for decades burned into the memories of mothers, wives and, above all, the children who thus said goodbye to their fathers forever. There were five hundred and seventy people deported to camps, almost half of which never came back, while life for the survivors and their families was never the same.
Matilde, written and directed by Renato Sarti, seeks to shed light on the “non-heroism” of thousands of men and women whose opposition to fascism and Nazism cost them dearly. He does so through the voices of those mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who, following the arrest of their menfolk as a consequence of the strikes in the industrial areas of North Milan - the only to take place under Mussolini’s rule, and the largest in Europe under the yoke of Nazism - found themselves suddenly having to face a life of famine and misery alone. In a desperate search for their men, they went to San Vittore and other detention centres in Milan. One of these was the cinema Broletto, the then location of the famed Legion of Ettore Muti: while films were shown in the auditorium, partisans and political dissidents were tortured in the dressing rooms. In 1947 that cinema became the Piccolo Teatro, which was freed of its horrific past by Giorgio Strehler and Paolo Grassi, through art, culture and union.
The play takes its starting point from eyewitness accounts collected over a period of twenty years by Giuseppe Valota, president of the Sesto San Giovanni branch of ANED - the National Association of ex-deportees into Nazi camps.
90 minutes without interval