Barry Grantham's first book, Playing Commedia , offered a brilliantly practical introduction to the characters, history and techniques of Commedia dell' Arte. In his new book, Commedia Plays , Grantham - himself a well-kwn Commedia performer/deviser - offers a collection of eight short plays illustrating the different periods and styles of this famous dramatic genre. Each of the eight plays carries its own detailed introduction and each play is presented both in outline form and in full text, allowing performers to improvise around the theme or to mount a fully-fledged staging. The second half of the book consists of a unique compilation of the Lazzi that form the basis of Commedia - we might call them bits of comic business - ranging from the Aside and the Chase to whole scenes such as 'The Proposal' and 'Caught in the Act'. As well as being suitable for performance on stage, the plays can be used as the basis for classroom and workshop study. And the bits of comic business from the Lazzi can be inserted into the written text or explored and improvised in the drama studio.
Barry Grantham is our foremost performer/deviser of Commedia. A child actor who trained in ballet, he has been teaching Commedia for the last twenty years, chiefly in London, but also in Norway, Sweden, German and Italy itself. His first book, Playing Commedia, was published in 2000 by NHB in the UK and by Heinemann in the US.