Films & Comedy

'Italian comedy,' known in italian as Commedia dell'Arte, was a humourous theatrical production performed by professional actors who travelled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16th century. These performances took place mostly on city streets, but occasionally in court venues. The more famous troupes; Gelosi, Confidenti, and Fedeli, were invited to perform in palaces and travel abroad, thus making them internationally famous. To enhance the effect of the comedy production, music, dance and witty dialogue were used to contribute more humour. This type of comic presentation became very popular throughout Europe and can still be seen today in theatres. You will notice that not all comedy acts use words, many of them use actions and therefore the audience can still understand the 'jokes.' This relates back to 'italian comedy' as touring companies would not change their dialect from region to region, but they still needed to make themselves understood, and given that there are numerous Italian dialects, using music and physical actions was the best way to do this. The comedy sets were always kept to a minimum for example, the use of a street would be a scene and temporary outdoor structures was often used as staging. This was compensated for by the use of props; animals, food, watering cans - anything that could be of use really. The character Arlecchino used two sticks tied together as a prop, which made a great noise on impact, hence the word "slapstick."

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