Commedia dell'Arte Residential 2015: Blog 1

1st July 2015

The first year on our Two Year Rep course are currently sunning themselves in Reggio Emilia, Italy training for a month with Antonio Fava in Commedia dell’Arte. Company member Heather Millar is documenting their training adventure in a series of blogs, the first of which is below!

Waking up at 5am on a Monday morning was not the most enjoyable activity I must admit, but after a two hour flight and a quick coach ride, waving wet and rainy London goodbye, it was all worth it when we arrived in beautiful Reggio Emilia!! Having settled into our accommodation, we were given the task of finding our way to one of the many (many!) squares, where we had an amazing dinner before we went to THE ice cream parlour – Emilia’s. Steve and many of the second years have told us a lot about this place and it was just as good as we imagined – and with so many flavours to choose from everyone was happy!

Tuesday morning marked our first day studying with Antonio Fava, much to everyone’s excitement, and none of us were disappointed. We were welcomed into the spacious studio by Antonio and his wife, Dina, who explained what we would be getting up to during our months stay and introduced us to the masks that we would be using. A fountain of knowledge, Antonio delved straight into the main characters of Commedia Dell’Arte, and had us up on our feet playing with them in true monkey fashion!

The first week continued in this fashion – each day we started with an introduction to a new character (Zani, the Lovers, the Capitano), and their importance and place in the world of Commedia Dell’Arte. We were then taken through their posture, behaviours and gestures by Antonio and his assistance Cecilia and invited to begin improvising with our version of the character within this structure – this usually included working on our own and then moving onto partnering the characters with another version of themselves or with their respective counterpart i.e. the pair of lovers, or the masters and their servants. While the mornings were spent working on the individual characters behaviours, the afternoons were spent creating little improvised scenes including the characters we had learnt and adding the new ‘character of the day’, which we then put on for Antonio and the rest of the class. It was incredibly interesting to watch and take part in – although I think we all had a little too much fun when the slapsticks were brought out!

Antonio’s training is based a lot on trying out the character he has presented us with and allowing us to explore what we can achieve with this structure – he then tells us when something is not quite in keeping with the Commedia style when he spots it, rather than giving us boundaries from the get go. I find this style of working incredibly liberating as it allows us to find the limits on our own rather than having to work inside boundaries.

While we spent our days at the studio, we had the evening and weekends to ourselves to explore the city of Reggio Emilia. There are always cafés open and most nights there is entertainment on in one of the squares, and of course there is Pink Wednesday! The weekend was spent exploring – while a large group of us cycled a total of 5 hours to go to a gorgeous lake (Reggio Emilia is a very cycle friendly city), a couple of us had a wonderful time wandering round the centre discovering little streets and coffee shops where we took in our beautiful surroundings. It’s safe to say having a broken leg definitely has its silver linings when everyone else is complaining of being saddle-sore!! Sunday included a trip to the water park only 30 minutes away from the city centre, where everyone enjoyed the sun, time to relax and enjoy getting in the pool to cool off ready for the week ahead. It’s safe to say that our first week has been amazing – the only problem is it’s going too quickly!