Marcello Magni

30 Sep 2022

Marcello Magni, Complicité’s co-founder, dearest friend, brother and irreplaceable comrade died early in the morning on Sunday 18 September in his home town of Bergamo.

Actor, collaborator, creator, unparalleled improviser, indefatigable inventor, hilarious dancer, teacher, mentor, captain and clown. The world has lost a unique talent; we have lost our dearest friend with his remarkable soul.

Born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1959, to Corrado and Miranda Magni, Marcello graduated from Ecole Jacques Lecoq in the 1980s and studied alongside some of the world’s leading theatre-makers, including Dario Fo, Giorgio Strehler, Pierre Byland, Philippe Gaulier and Monika Pagneux. He first met Complicité co-founders Simon McBurney and Fiona Gordon in 1980 at Lecoq, and, together with Annabel Arden, founded Complicité in 1983.

Co-creator of the very first shows such as A Minute Too Late and More Bigger Snacks Now (which won the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 1985, at the time called The Perrier Award) he toured all over the world, from Plymouth to Peru playing on stages, in clubs, stadiums, on the streets, in shantytowns, prisons, schools and wherever we were invited or decided we could. Fearless, irrepressible and wildly funny, his ability to connect to audiences without a word spoken made him adored wherever and whenever we performed.

Restlessly curious he also dived into reinvention of classics, such as playing an Italian Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale which Complicité toured worldwide; being utterly anarchic in Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance at the National Theatre, or Moliere’s School for Wives Derby Playhouse, and bringing his unruly imagination to many Shakespearean roles at the Globe. He conceived and co-directed Help! I’m Alive (an adaptation of Ruzzante’s masterpiece Il Bilora) and Foe (adapted from J.M.Coetzee’s novel of the same name) and was constantly in demand as a movement director, advisor and teacher at theatres all over the globe.

It was through Complicité in the late 1980s that he met his great love, and future wife, Kathryn Hunter. Together on stage they wove a special kind of magic – in numerous Complicité productions such as Anything for a Quiet Life, The Visit and Out of a house walked a man. Wherever they appeared, so often side-by-side, there was an indefinable and extraordinary chemistry. Their most recent joint performance, in Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs, was described as ‘spine-shiveringly good’ by The Guardian, and impossible to get a ticket to. We have shared in the joy this relationship brought to both of them, and hold our friend Kathryn close as she grieves. Their story is our story.

Throughout his career he was sought out by so many remarkable creators; from Robert Lepage to Peter Brook. Latterly with Brook he created Fragments, an extraordinary, hilarious and luminous sequence of Beckett short plays, which toured with immense success from Australia to the Americas.

Kathryn and Marcello were the two performers in Brook’s last stage creation, a reading of Happy Days at the Bouffes du Nord in Paris in the autumn of 2021. A few years ago Peter Brook casting Marcello as Ariel in The Tempest said “I have worked on this play and seen it so many times, but never encountered a greater, lighter Ariel.”

We are bereft of his talent, his generous heart and gentle brilliance. But even as we mourn we hold all that he was, all that he is, with such gratitude. And love.

Vale Marcello.

From Simon McBurney, Artistic Director and co-founder, Complicité 

Playing with Marcello was like nothing else I have experienced in life. Particularly when we had no idea what we were doing. He was at his most brilliant with the unforeseen, the unknowable, the chaotic, with what was invented on and in the moment. To be able to do that you have to be here. To be as present as a fox, as quick as a rat and as agile as a fish. He was so utterly present. Always. So utterly present was he, that now I cannot refer to him in the past. I cannot conceive of him in the past at all. It feels impossible. He is here. Somewhere. Just around the corner. Ready for the unforeseen. The unknowable. Ready to play so freely. So lightly. So free. He is here somewhere. “Ariel”, calls Prospero in his penultimate speech “… to the elements Be free…” Yes. He is still somewhere here. So free.

From Annabel Arden, co-founder, Complicité

It is so very difficult to believe that Marcello is not living as he has always lived – in a supremely alive body. I think of him and can feel immediate warmth, sense delicious fluid movement, feel my energy rise with his encouraging voice. I feel cheered at his wide smile, his lively eyes, his fantastically sensitive and strong presence. His laughter, playfulness, silly or surprising jokes – zany capers… This life of the body was matched of course by an equally lively spirit. And now we must accustom ourselves to living with only this spirit which we must cherish even more realising how precious it is; how fragile even such a seemingly indestructible life as Marcello’s – actually is. Unbelievable to lose him, this loss is a clarion call to everyone to make the most of everything – as he did. To say YES to every proposition, take every moment and use it fully. Thank you dear Marcello, for everything.

From Tom Morris, Chair of Board, Complicité 

All at Complicité are deeply saddened to hear that dear Marcello has left us. No one who saw his skill onstage, his unique blend of shocking physicality, sheer virtuosity, lightness, delicacy, lunacy and deep feeling, will ever forget it. Nor will those of us who had the privilege to know him off-stage forget the gentle generosity and care which made him so deeply loved by so many of us. We also saw that his extraordinary gifts were underpinned by unstinting commitment, graft and passion: it takes a whole and full life, body and soul, to create work which is so delicate and so profound: Marcello piled every sinew of his form and heart into the work he loved. Complicité will hold his memory with enormous gratitude. We are lucky to have known him as friends and colleagues, and to carry the legacy of the company which he and his friends invented all those years ago, and which went on to change the face of British theatre.