Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century collection of novellas, The Decameron, deals with the Black Death. He writes of a group of 10 young women and men who, in an effort to avoid the plague, escape to a deserted villa outside Florence.
Over the course of 10 nights in isolation together, each character shares a story with the group – so, at the end of the 10 days, 100 stories have been told. Some of the stories are funny, some are beautiful, and some are tragic.
It’s a project that feels particularly pertinent today. In a year that’s thrown bushfires and a pandemic at us, art can be a source of comfort for many – especially art that addresses how humans cope with events outside their control.
Enter: South Australia’s State Theatre Company and ActNow Theatre. Their new digital theatre project Decameron 2.0 draws inspiration from Boccaccio’s work and brings together some of the state’s best writers – including Alexis West, Emily Steel and Ben Brooker – to write 100 new stories.
Like the original, the stories are responses to our current world and crisis. The writers meet online each week to discuss themes of The Decameron (such as fortune, fate, love and virtue) and use them as inspiration to create a five-minute monologue or free-form piece on the same day. The following day, actors – including Miranda Daughtry, James Smith, Elaine Crombie and Valerie Berry – are recorded performing the story.
Among the stories so far are a grandmother Zooming with her grandchild during isolation; a trans man waiting for surgery; and the experience of an Aboriginal woman in custody.
The first video from the Decameron 2.0 project will be available online on Friday July 10, with a new video to be released weekly.