After going to see She Has a Name, I finished my evening of Fringing off with some Commedia dell’Arte, going to watch The Poor Fools present Tutti Fooli. After a very intense show, this was a great counterbalance. The show is staged by the Poor Theatre Company out of Morden, MB.
For those that aren’t familiar with this form, it is explained very well in the little Fringe Show advertisement that is in the Fringe Festival program:
Commedia dell’Arte thrived in Renaissance Italy and now you can experience it today, contemporized, with all its classic fixings including masks, physicality, improv, audience interaction, slapstick and lazzi.
The show is built around a wedding. So, as the audience arrives, they are greeted by members of the cast and “helpfully” escorted to their seats. Once seated various members of the cast circulate through the guests engaging in conversations, most of which involve bickering with each other in front of the guests.
The stage itself is bare save for a large piece of cloth that has been painted to look like the front of a house, providing a door for exits and entrances and windows for characters to pop their heads through.
The humour in the play is broad and bawdy, so it’s not for the easily offended, and the laughs come early, often and continually throughout. At various points of the show audience members are drawn in to the action. In some cases this is directed at individuals in the audience and sometimes a more general audience response is called for. In keeping with the location and era, the show plays on typical modern and Winnipeg based ideas for many of it’s gags.
There is not a lot of plot in Commedia Dell’Arte, and what is there is convoluted and illogical, sort of like a John Grisham novel but better written and with jokes. This lack of plot also allows for the players to improvise when the unexpected crops up in the middle of the show. Last night, the actor playing the character of the nanny went down with an injury during the course of one of the gags(we were assured at the end of the show that it was not serious). However, the rest of the cast picked up from there in such fine fashion, that it wasn’t until the closing scene that I noticed she hadn’t been on stage for a long period of time.
Part of the reason that they were able to pull this off is that this is ensemble acting, so there are no real lead actors among the cast. The are part of the reason is that there are no weak links among the ensemble cast.
One word of warning, if you go remember to turn your cell phones off. This cast takes seriously, the idea that phones should not interrupt the show, an idea that even I, whose living is tied to social media, wholeheartedly agree with.
Venue #9 -Shaw Performing Arts Centre (MTYP) 2 Forks Market Rd.