As director Stefano Guizzi welcomes the audience, he ponders what great, international contribution Italy has made to the artistic world. Fortunately, we have Commedia dell’arte to thank for modern notions of improvisation, character comedy and sketch – and this workshop performance celebrates that role with energetic warmth and gratitude.
Guizzi presents a group of eight students who have attended workshops for six days on commedia dell’arte – ran by Charioteer Theatre, an emerging international touring company aiming to offer actors from around the world the chance to train and perform together.
Naturally, the show is rough and ready due to its workshop status; there are little to no props and an absence of costumes or set – only commedia masks used by the actors. What’s interesting is how the players use these masks and blend their movements with physical comedy to explore notions of the self and of performance. Of course, there is something quite jovial and playful ingrained within the mischievous nature of commedia dell’arte, yet it represents much more than that: it questions how we interact, how we probe each other’s responses and how we use irony and suggestion to reveal answers about our deepest desires or cruellest passions.
And with the performance of commedia dell’arte, not only does it become extremely difficult to express emotion and intention when wearing a mask, it becomes necessary to develop an identity hidden within which can speak to an audience. This is what the group do so well; they create their own idiosyncratic, teasing individuality while coming together to create this intriguingly rich collective persona. The slow and decrepit movements of Pantalone, the impish jumping around of Arlecchino are played out with finesse and exquisite balance by the performers which invite the audience into this world of intrigue and tentative mysticism. While this offers glimpses into the philosophical and intellectual world of commedia performance, it also dexterously reveals the stock characters we have come to love in modern adaptations of Italian theatre.
To find out more about Charioteer Theatre’s work and future projects, you can visit their website here.
Congratulations to the students participating in the project: Carol Norris, Aaron Jones, Dani Iannarelli, Ricardo Pumpo, Danielle Farrow, Valentina Albertario, Christian Zanone and Christopher Honey.
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