Maggie Rose presents Arlecchino’s debut in 16th century Europe, thanks to the early actors who played the role, most notably Tristano Martinelli, Domenico Biancolelli and Antonio Sacchi.
Giorgio Strehler’s incredibly vibrant, long lasting Arlecchino, 1949 to today
After centuries when Arlecchino had fallen out of sight, in 1947 Giorgio Strehler and Paolo Grassi, fresh from the Second World War, re-invented Italian theatre and founded Milan’s Piccolo Teatro. One of the Piccolo’s very first productions re-discovered a long-lost theatrical form, a legend from four hundred years before, namely the Commedia dell’Arte, whose masks of Arlecchino, Pantalone, Dottore, Colombina, il Capitano, Brighella, and many others, had roamed through Europe, astonishing royalty and ordinary people, with their outstanding acting and dare-devil tricks. They were to have a remarkable influence on much of what came later.
Against the backdrop of a Milan devastated by the war, ebullient in its reconstruction, and in its cultural de-construction of fascism, Strehler set about searching for a theatre that would be high art but accessible to everybody. At a time when the Commedia dell’Arte had been almost forgotten – its masks were still used at the Venetian Carnival but little more – Strehler came upon Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, where the masked characters of Commedia had been preserved. So Strehler and his team went on to study the very few academic publications available at the time and the paintings and engravings they could find. Subsequently the director was able to bring the spirits of Commedia back to life and was soon touring Europe and the world with his newly-created Arlecchino. The world-wide success of the Piccolo’s Arlecchino means it is one of the longest-running shows ever (70 years this May). Stefano Guizzi, who trained with Strehler and has been part of Arlecchino‘s cast since 1990, will tell the tale of the Piccolo’s Arlecchino, playing with his memories and with the masks that have been worn by so many Commedia actors.
Arlecchino at Milan’s San Vittore Prison is just one important offshoot of Commedia in contemporary Italy. Donatella Massimilla, director of the CETEC theatre company, resident at San Vittore, will present her workshops, where inmates learn about Commedia techniques and masks and delve into Shakespeare to discover Commedia traces in plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. Donatella will be demonstrating some of her masks and showing video clips of her company in action.
22 April 2017
The Bear Pit Theatre, Rother Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6LU