Action Theatre (Italy)
at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2024
Bringing to life the Golden Age of Commedia dell’Arte with half masks, exquisite costumes and live music!

The Italians in England

Where? theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, Fleming Theatre,
Nicolson St, EH8 9DW

When? 12:25 – 13:15, 2nd to 24th August
(no shows on Sunday 11th & Sunday 18th)

Tickets: £13 (£11 concessions)

Commedia and Half Mask Talk

With Rupert Raison

Where? TheSpace @ Symposium Hall, Annexe, Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DW

When? 11:00 – 11:50am, Sunday 18th August

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)

The Show

The Italians in England

The year is 1572. Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne. Shakespeare and the professional London stage are some years away but in Italy a new theatrical phenomenon is exploding: Commedia dell’Arte. This combination of mask, comedy, amusing plots, actresses and improvisation took Europe by storm. Our play starts at the court of Queen Elizabeth who insists that her Master of Revels bring the Italian players to London to perform before her.

Performed with leather masks, exquisite costumes and live music, The Italians in England aims to bring to life the Golden Age of Commedia dell’Arte in the story of Il Vecchio Geloso (The Jealous Old Man), adapted from an original canovaccio by Flaminio Scala. A young lover attempts to consummate his love for the wife of jealous husband, Pantalone. Servants and masters seek love too. Raw passion and reality collide in a clear but complex plot set in a country villa outside Venice – which includes a memorable lunch party invaded by wild boar.

The Wider Project

The Italians in England is a three year Commedia dell’Arte project led by Rupert Raison with professional actors who he has worked with over the years. The project is in commemoration of the great Arlecchino and physical theatre actor from Venice’s TAG company, Eugenio Allegri, whose wife left Allegri’s costumes, stage and masks to Rupert Raison, Philip Radice and Alessia Donadio with the wish that his work in Commedia dell’Arte continue after his death.

Phase One

In the summer of 2023, ten professional actors were invited to take part in the Action Theatre International Commedia Dell’Arte Week: Training For Performance held from 3rd – 8th July. The training was directed by Rupert Raison and resulted in a final open-air workshop performance of the play The Italians in England on a 5x3m Commedia stage in Castiglione Torinese. The performance raised funds for the Eugenio Allegri video archive.

Samuel Wright, George Mouskoundi, Giacomo Cremaschi, Edoardo Vanoni, Amerigo Calandri, Kuluk Helms, Simona Bisconti, Emanuelle Bains, Juliet Turnbull and Aimee Hislop presented a fresh, amusing show with a great energy. The audience response was terrific, showing that Commedia dell’Arte can still interest a modern day audience.

Phase Two

From Turin to the Edinburgh Fringe. In summer 2024, the international ensemble who collaborated with Rupert during the 2023 Commedia dell’Arte week will rejoin Action Theatre in Turin to create a new reworked version of The Italians in England. These rehearsals will focus on choreography, set pieces, mask, lazzi, comedy and ensemble work. The show will then be making its world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2024.

The Company

Turin’s Action Theatre, led by Lecoq-trained Rupert Raison, is one of Europe’s leading half mask companies using half mask, puppetry and physical theatre to entertain and teach English to approximately 1 million Italian students over the last 25 years.

Action Theatre

Rupert Raison is a writer, director and artistic director of Action Theatre. He is a leading expert in the field of English Teaching Theatre and with over 50 titles to his name he has created a host of unique comedy characters. Originally from London, England, Rupert studied at Jacques Lecoq in Paris for two years and then moved to Italy to work in physical theatre where he founded the Dizziacs Theatre Company and subsequently Action Theatre to teach English to Italian students.

Rupert developed an interest in Commedia dell’Arte during his Italian studies at Bristol University and wrote his dissertation on Goldoni, Gozzi and the end of the Commedia dell’Arte. He went on to study at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq and took Commedia dell’Arte courses with Eugenio Allegri, Antonio Fava and Stefano Perocco. He has taught Commedia in theatre schools in the UK and England and has written on Commedia dell’Arte for the publication Speech & Drama.

Rupert toured England in the summer of 1984 with the Gelati Commedia dell’Arte company directed by well-known director Jamie Macdonald. He has also been lucky to have worked with an outstanding mask maker and dear friend Franco Leita, spending many hours working together on the features of the main Commedia masks which Franco would then create in leather.

In March and June 2024, Rupert is directing a Commedia dell’Arte piece for The Performing Arts University of Turin directed by Philip Radice.

Rupert Raison

Simona Bisconti

Amerigo Calandri

Amerigo Calandri

Giacomo Cremaschi

Kuluk Helms

Aimee Hislop

Ina Lark

George Mouskoundi

George Mouskoundi

Juliet Turnbull

Juliet Turnbull

Edoardo Vanoni

Samuel Wright

Commedia and Half Mask Talk
with Rupert Raison

When? 11:00 – 11:50am, Sunday 18th August

Where? TheSpace @ Symposium Hall, Annexe,

Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DW

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)

Writer and director Rupert Raison is in the unique position of having studied with Jacques Lecoq, Eugenio Allegri, Antonio Fava and Stefano Perocco and is offering a one-off talk in Commedia dell’Arte that will address the following and more:

  • How Jacques Lecoq’s teaching was influenced by Commedia dell’Arte and how his legacy affects the approach to Commedia dell’Arte today
  • The 1947 Servant of Two Masters half mask production by the Piccolo Teatro of Milan
  • The work of Venice’s TAG theatre, focusing on the work of Eugenio Allegri and Carlo Boso
  • Commedia dell’Arte today: misconceptions, mistakes, movements, half mask and why Commedia dell’Arte is rarely seen now

Contact Us

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