Our Story

HOW IT ALL STARTED

Ninian Kinnier-Wilson and Didi Hopkins first met at St. George's Theatre in Tufnell Park, north London, in early 1981. He was an artist and was there with his friend John Broadbent. Both had studied fine art at Liverpool Art school. Didi had co-founded Beryl and the Perils, feminist theatre based on the rebellious comic book character. They all came to Tufnell park knowing little about Commedia. 

The two-week intensive was run by two Italians with limited English - Carlo Boso & Stefano di Perocco. The trio, however, understood everything as the oral tradition was passed down through the body, through emotion, physicality, muscular repetition and memory. 

What Boso and Perocco did in those two weeks in north London was ignite the flame of Commedia within John, Nin and Didi who have worked with the richness of Commedia at the base of their practice since.

All three trained further with Carlo in Paris, Avignon and Venice, and each also played as troupe in various of his international companies. Having learnt how to make leather masks, John and Nin created and toured their own Commedia company, The Unfortunati, in the UK and Europe and Didi took her Commedia back to Beryl and the Perils, as well as creating such companies as The Adrenalinis, The Cornettos & The Zaniettas. 

John, Didi and Nin first founded Commedia Works when they realised after many years, that it does. Commedia works. 

Didi started working for the National Theatre’s education department, delivering workshops on Brecht, physical theatre, Berkoff, devising in schools from primary right up to 6th form level and inset for teachers. She soon realised all that she was teaching in the other subjects was rooted in Commedia. After begging for years to run a Commedia inset, the department agreed to experiment with one. It was so oversubscribed that they had to run another day immediately.

Didi worked with Richard Bean on One Man, Two Guvnors, translating the only existing Commedia script to 1960’s Brighton, as well as being a central figure in developing his new show for the RSC, The Hypocrite. She was then invited by director, Selina Cadell to work with her cast on The Rivals at the Arcola and to be the Commedia and movement consultant on her production of Love for Love at the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

It was at The RSC in 2015 where Elliott Ross & Didi first worked together. Elliott is an actor with a background in Commedia and Drama teaching. Whilst working on Love for Love, Elliott played multiple roles, some requiring moments of heightened physical comedy, including being flown into the air by one of his ankles. He worked closely with Didi on creating these characters and routines. 

 

Inspired by their mutual love of Commedia dell'Arte and drawn together by a working relationship that was clearly dynamic, Elliott joined forces with Didi and together they relaunched Commedia Works.

We can't wait to share it with you.

Ninian Kinnier-Wilson passed away in 2013. The masks he made are the best in the world and we bring them with us everywhere. His collection is now housed at the Scottish Centre for Mask and Puppetry in Glasgow. and they are soon to be on display to members of the public.

Graphic design by Jamie Ballantyne

Photography by Joe Browne

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