“Comoedia”, Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Margaret Rose at Greenside
17 August 2022

The early Italian Commedia dell’arte troupes played to queens, kings and ordinary folk in squares, streets and palaces, bringing laughter and joy wherever they went in Europe.

Four hundred and fifty years later, Gian Marco Pellecchia, Riccardo Cusato and Davide Raiola have travelled from northern Italy to Edinburgh ready to face the challenges of the Fringe and play to new audiences.

I saw their production, Comoedia, in a small theatre studio at Greenside (Riddles Court). Pellecchia’s solo performance in English (translation by Nicolò Palazzetti), with a smattering of Italian, sees him playing multiple characters. These include Comoedia, a new masked character, which this writer-performer has invented for himself alongside the stock characters of Pantaloon, the Capitan and Lover.

The interweaving of the well-known Commedia dell’arte stories – two couples of Lovers, a grumpy, forgetful and lusting Pantaloon, twin brothers who get separated – with contemporary songs, such as the Beatles’ “Love Me Do”, works really well.

Pellecchia also engaged in the familiar adlibbing of commedia dell’arte actors, commenting on the rainy windy weather in Edinburgh, praising the Italians in the audience for attending the show, and, in Arlecchino style, cheekily asking us for money and more money.

The mix of past and present, traditional and topical, underscored the continuing relevance of the Commedia tropes today while reminding us that theatre depends on the actor and does not necessarily need complicated settings and visuals which is often the case today. This entertaining Commedia dell’arte show is suitable for people of all ages.