Our touring Company was founded in 1997, after seven years as a community-based theatre company in Eastbourne, East Sussex. Our Creative Director is Pete Talbot, a former teacher, who trained in commedia dell’arte with the maestro Antonio Fava at the Scuola Internazionale dell’Attore Comico in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Our shows – which are inspired by and deeply rooted in the commedia – are aimed at adults but enjoyed by all ages and are performed both indoors and outdoors. Our cast is composed of professional physical theatre actors and actor-musicians trained in mime, clown or commedia. Most members of our team are also musicians, and our original music live music is integrated with the action.
Our acting style uses large comic and often acrobatic movement and physical jokes called lazzi and burli, much of it part of a tradition which is hundreds of years old, but using Pedrolino style white faces – pantomime blanche (rather than leather masks) – and bright coloured vibrant ‘cartoon-ised’ costumes. We literally use the slapstick or battoccio, but our work is not ‘merely slapstick’.
Poetic solutions to storytelling are never far away and through mime, ‘sound texturing’ and devices of our own we are constantly looking to exploit the poetic, fantastic and absurd. We are not a ‘heritage’ company – either English or Italian. We use tools from the tradition – as and when we see fit – to produce new work. Fava calls this use of tradition to create contemporary work commedia parodia.
After touring across southern England since 1999, we are best known for our outdoor summer tours and taking theatre into small rural communities. We do get into towns and cities occasionally but the ambiance of buses, car horns and drunks is slightly less conducive to poetic moods than the country where a worst case scenario is adjacent muck spreading, bell ringing practice or performing in a cow shed. We are now developing new work to be performed at indoor community venues and are exploring the possibility of using big tops.
We are inspired to work this way by romantic images of saltimbanques and Harlequins and by the sublime ‘Footsbarn Theatre Co’, who were driven out of England by the sheer neglect of our own funding system at the time to France where they are properly appreciated. But England is not France.
The pace of life, the aggressive environment of our roads, the banal mentality of Government regarding the Arts and sheer economics and practicality means we have long since compromised (regrettably but without conscience) the romantic ideal. We sold our living wagon to the rare and beautiful ‘Harris Brothers Traditional Fair’, but function very well with our portable theatre consisting of our pageant wagon, gas lights, flexible fence and tents for the cast and front of house.
Our audiences are growing every year and we have a hugely loyal fan-base that come to see us year-after-year and a dedicated Friends group. We work across Southern England from Devon to Kent – come and see us!
Commedia History and Tradition
If you are interested in reading more about the history and tradition of Commedia Dell’Arte, there is lots more in our Talk Commedia section in this site, and by following Artistic Director Pete Talbot on his blog too.