Saturday, 2 October 2004

The Zanni Troupe-Masquerade, Oct 2, 2004

 The Zanni Troupe - Masquerade  
by Kite Theatre Productions

 Melbourne Fringe Festival
 North Melbourne Town Hall, Oct 2 to 10, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Commedia del'Arte is a masked, improvised comedy that was prevalent in Europe for many centuries.

From it comes much of our contemporary comedy, slapstick and specific, recognisable characters such as Harlequin and Punch.

The Zanni Troupe show, called Masquerade, takes some elements of the Commedia and places three characters in a contemporary Melbourne locale. Two actors play Arlecchino (Steven Fioretti) and his sexy partner and fellow servant, Colombina. (Maggie Miles)

This show uses the elements of the Commedia: mask, stock characters, bawdiness and some physical comedy.

Colombina is the poorly paid but sexy servant of the old Miser, Pantelone (Fioretti) The foolish Arlecchino lets slip to Colombina, that Pantelone wants to marry her. She fantasises about the wealth, status and comfort of such a marriage - which upsets her doting lover, Arlecchino.

Masquerade is a valiant effort to recreate the Commedia in a modern context. Miles and Fioretti are playful enough at times. They relive Arlecchino and Colombina's past love trysts, naughty tricks at Pantelone's expense and wild rides on a motor bike through St Kilda.

However, there are significant problems with this show. The narrative lacks clarity. It relies too heavily on several verbose solo scenes and too much expository and unfunny dialogue.

Because the characters are alone on stage often, the relationship between Arlecchino and Colombina is underdeveloped.

Having Fioretti play both Arlecchino and Pantelone means that we never see Pantelone with any other character. This could allow further development of relationships, elevate the dramatic tension and provide fuel for comedy.

All the masks, but particularly that of Colombina, are overwrought and loudly coloured so that the character is unclear and the actors' eyes and expression are obscured.

Director, Tammie Kite could edit the show, vary the rhythm and increase the visual gags.  The pace is too slow for physical comedy, there are long pauses between scenes and much of the dialogue lacks spark.

With some sharper structuring of the narrative, clearer mime action, more focus on the relationships between characters, clearer masks and application of the principles of physical comedy, The Zanni Troupe could find itself closer to the intention of Commedia Del'Arte.

LOOK FOR: The motorbike ride

By Kate Herbert

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