La Creduta Morta

BATS Theatre, Wellington

08/08/2006 - 12/08/2006

Production Details

Devised by Unitec-Acting Year 3 students
Directed by Lisa Brickell and Linda Cartwright

A fusion of the rich textual energy of Shakespeare with the vibrant, physical energy of Commedia dell ‘Arte. Commedia dell’Arte is a form of semi-improvised comedy which started in the marketplaces of Italy over 400 years ago. It is a half-mask tradition which has had a huge impact on many forms of theatre. The essence of Commedia is about being ‘larger than life’, both physically and emotionally. It’s about finding real joy as well as complete honesty and truth within the physicality of the performance. Commedia dell’Arte is about being passionate, spontaneous and fully in the moment, in true Italian style.

Many say that the idea for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet came from the traditional Commedia dell’Arte play, La Creduta Morta, by Flaminio Scala. ‘There lived in Florence two gentlemen called Pantalone and Gratiano. They were of old and noble families, and bore a long hatred for each other … Oratio ,Pantalone’s son, had fallen in love with Isabella, daughter of his enemy  … Isabella took, with the help of a physician, a potion which would put her into a death-like sleep … .’Sound familiar?

Lisa Brickell trained in Commedia dell’Arte at the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, and with Commedia masters, Giovanni Fussetti and Antonio Fava in Italy.  Linda Cartwright is an internationally renowned voice teacher and vocal coach.

Working with Unitec’s year three acting students, Lisa is using her experience in the Commedia tradition, and Linda her expertise with Shakespeare and voice, to explore and experiment with Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.

BATS Theatre 1 Kent Tce, Wellington  Book at BATS: Phone 04 802 4175  email:


Tuesday 8 Aug                     

11am       La Creduta Morta                                  

1pm         You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square              

7pm         La Creduta Morta


Wednesday 9 Aug                               

11am       You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square              

1pm         La Creduta Morta                   

7pm         You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square


Thursday 10 Aug                  

11am       La Creduta Morta                                   

1pm         You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square              

7pm         La Creduta Morta


Friday 11 Aug                       

11am       You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square              

1pm         La Creduta Morta                  

7pm         You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square


Saturday 12 Aug                  

6:30pm    La Creduta Morta and You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square



There will be an opportunity after each show for the audience to speak with the cast.

Damien Harrison
Morgana O’Reilly
Michelle Blundell
Miles Tankle
Alistair Quirke
Julia Hyde
Rory McKinnon

Theatre , Mask ,

Tragical comedy

Review by John Smythe 08th Aug 2006

Scholars claim it was a traditional Commedia dell’Arte play, La Creduta Morta by Flaminio Scala, that inspired – or at least influenced – Shakespeare in his writing of Romeo and Juliet. Hence the research project that has spawned this splendid 80 minute show, devised by Unitec’s School of Performing and Screen Arts Year Three Acting students with Lecoq-trained Lisa Brickell and voice tutor Linda Cartwright as co-directors.

To the smallest opening night audience I’ve ever seen at BATS – buck up Wellington, welcome fresh talent! – eight actors and four production crew bring Commedia conventions to the Bard’s tragedy. Their facility with Commedia mask and all the emotion-based physicality it entails is largely a delight to behold. Likewise their fluency with Shakespearean text gives us clear access to the oft-told and well-known tale.

With a light touch and refreshing energy, the ensemble rattles through a potted version of the plot, taking infectious pleasure in their work.

Michelle Blundell’s ‘La Signora’ preens and poses as Lady Capulet while Miles Tankle brings ‘Pantalone’ to Old Capulet, although he could do more to convince us of physical and vocal age. He makes a fine Benvolio of ‘Arlecchino’, however.

In a brief appearance as the Prince (‘Capitano’), Alistair Quirke is suitably authoritative but I’d prefer less random leaping about and more deep-felt angst in his Mercutio (‘Brighella’).

These masks can be powerful conduits for inner feelings, often found in relative stillness, but I fear pathos has been the loser in the quest to keep the show whipping along.

Julia Hyde – another elegant La Signora as Lady Montague – finds a good Nurse character in her ‘Columbine’ mask, although why a New Zealand actress should do an Italian character in a Cockney accent is beyond me (unless she herself is English).

Rory McKinnon brings impressive physical distinction to his dotty Friar Laurence (‘Dottore’), excitable Peter (Predronlino’) and decrepit Old Montague (‘Pulcinella’). With a strong stage presence, Kayne Ngatokowha Peters also distinguishes well between Paris (‘Lover’) and Tybalt (‘Capitano’).

Without masks, except at the Capulets’ party, Damien Harrison and Morgana O’Reilly play Romeo and Juliet with a splendid range of youthful feelings, all the more effective for avoiding the slightest hint of ‘elocution’. Whether she’s smitten or stroppy, O’Reilly is strongly heartfelt. Harrison excels in acrobatic moves, in the fight scenes and leaping to the balcony.

The fights are extremely well executed with great theatrical flair and the dancing is also delightful. It’s in the group work that we see what added value can arise from a company that has been together for nearly three years (rare indeed in professional theatre these days).

Worth a special mention is the ingenious way Friar Lawrence fails to get the message through to Romeo, that Juliet has faked her suicide – hence the tragic ending, played here with but a split second between his taking poison and her waking.

The authentically designed Commedia masks (no credit offered in the programme) are somewhat compromised by high-angled lighting which often leave the deep-set eyes in shadow. That said, we know a mask show is working when it is a shock to see the real faces beneath the convincing characters, as they peel off to offer the epilogue.


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