Francesco Andolfi on La Mandragola

The rehearsals for this project are a continuous work in progress with just as much room for improvement. As per most classical pieces, The Mandrake Roots provides a text that doesn’t need anything else but the actor’s dedication to understand the purpose of the play. The message, the idea, the spine if you will. During this work I found myself trapped in the challenge of giving truth to the character and maintaining the aim of the playwright. Embodying the character is usually how I start, and in order to do so I indulge in the help of props, costumes and, with this project, improvisation. So far we’ve had our opening night and there is another performance ahead of us. Certainly I do not consider those a rehearsal, but nevertheless I am aware of how my cast mates and I have been finding new things here and there along the text, and as the plot was unknotting the characters were also becoming more human. It is important not to forget, like Stefano Albertini said in his introduction to our show, that Machiavelli was first and foremost interested in people; therefore these characters, though at first sight a way to tell a story full of subtext and political references, are actually people that the author might’ve met on a street in Florence. Consequentially it is a duty to humanize these characters so that an audience member doesn’t just see the impotent old geezer who doesn’t understand what is happening around him, but a man with lost hopes about having a son and willing to do just about anything to have one.... Read more

Carlotta Brentan on La Mandragola

We’re fast approaching the end of our rehearsal period for The Mandrake Root, and the closer we get to our first performance, the more discoveries we make about this incredible text – and the more I wish we had extra time to play with it! There is a reason Machiavelli is revered as one of the greatest political thinkers of Italian history. Of course, he’s better known for his treatises like The Prince, but even when he’s technically writing fiction for popular entertainment, he manages to drench it in razor-sharp political satire – while simultaneously creating a hilarious, riotous and eminently watchable spectacle. All of this has made working on The Mandrake Root an extremely interesting and challenging experience. As actors, we need to respect the style in which the play was first written. We have to take Machiavelli’s stock characters, often reminiscent of Commedia Dell’Arte figures, and try and bring them to life as they were originally conceived. That means embracing some of their over-the-top features, such as extreme emotions (Callimaco), excessive stupidity (Messer Nicia) or deeply ironic faults (Fra Timoteo), and embodying them on the stage. We have to remember that this play was first written not to be performed in quiet auditorium with a mute audience sitting respectfully in their darkened seats – but rather at a celebration, in front of a riotous audience who is talking and laughing – and sometimes screaming and shouting – as loudly as the actors themselves. At the same time, we have to bring this play into the 21st century – and Machiavelli’s wit and wisdom is such that this... Read more