Commedia con Corinna, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Concordia College Drama Studio, 25 February - 8 March 2012. Directed by Corinna Di Niro, with special co-direction by Antonio Fava.
Commedia del’arte – the highly formalised comedy which originated in Italy in the 16th century – occupies a curious position in theatre today, being far more widely taught than it is performed. Commedia is perhaps better known outside of drama schools through the theatrical forms it gave rise to: the English pantomime, harlequinade and Punch and Judy, French mime, the comedies of Moliere and Marivaux and so on. When commedia is produced on stage in Australia, according to Commedia con Corinna’s Corinna Di Niro, it is usually inauthentic and informed by misconception and myth. Di Niro has trained under maestro Antonio Fava, the world master of commedia, and directs and performs in Re-Wed: The Marriage of Flavio & Isabella, an attempt to present a play in authentic commedia del’arte style. Di Niro is no slave to commedia’s past, however, sprinkling Re-Wed with contemporary touches such as mobile phones and gossip magazines in order to bring the form up to date.
Commedia, though devised rather than scripted, is known for its stock characters and situations and Re-Wed is no different. In Florence’s Piazza of Errors, two young lovers – Flavio and Isabella – are about to be wed. Chaos reigns, however, when Flavio’s ex-girlfriend returns after having been kidnapped. Slighted by Flavio, Filomena plots revenge with, naturally, hilarious consequences.
James Lainas and Italian Cinzia Schincariol join Di Niro onstage, each donning a series of masks in order to portray a variety of characters. The masks, made from leather by Fava himself, are beautiful to look at and do much to realise Di Niro’s ambition to produce authoritative commedia. Lainas and Di Niro are not natural performers (Di Niro’s background is in research rather than performance) but their love of the form is clear and makes for some entertaining viewing. Schincariol is better, her extensive dance training showing through in her superior physicality.
Performed at breakneck pace and incorporating much audience interaction, Re-Wed charms and mostly succeeds in its update of an increasingly unfamiliar form.