The Italian Comedy @ 107 Projects Redfern

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (preview show, 29 November)

I’ll never miss a play presented by Something Wicked even if thundercracks of lightning threatened to rip the sky in two just as I was leaving my front door to review the performance.

“Still on?” I texted the co-producer, citing the torrential rain.
“Yep” came the instant reply.

And so it was, a thoroughly enjoyable evening of a swashbuckling adventure called The Italian Comedy, full of quirks, perks and quippy puns on par with the meta-fantastic The Princess Bride. Postponed last season due to the sudden closure of Meraki Arts Bar (where the play was originally slated to be performed), it finally went on with a bang to an almost full house on preview night.

Written by Steve Hopley and Alexander Gibbs, and produced by Hopley and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou, The Italian Comedy is a modern commedia dell’arte full of colourful characters engaging in swordplay / wordplay / poetic foreplay. A humble but crafty tailor, a union leader-turned-mannequin, an ogrish count, his beautiful daughter, a suave, exotic suitor, an overbearing nurse, and two bumbling policemen are embroiled on an epic adventure of love, honour and factory strikes. The ensemble shine in this highly choreographed piece with three musketeers at the helm (Hopley as director, Lauren Oxenham as dance choreographer and Diego Retamales as movement consultant). The audience were hooked from the very beginning (must be the ‘Placebo effect’ – an in-joke named after one of the characters).

The playwrights give the actors plenty of material to work with, creating characters that are fun and memorable. Nicholas Richard as the aforementioned Placebo opens the show with aggrandising humour. He carries that thread throughout the show, weaving gaudy puns and appeals for applause that had the audience snickering and groaning all at once.

James Hartley amuses as the sibilant, stingy, short-sighted, sleazy Cello, literally throwing his weight around to great effect. Tess O’Sullivan is siren-esque as the available, willing (but don’t call her ‘easy’!) nurse. Grigoriou as Messia is a proud union rebel leader, breathing life into her valiant character as well as a mannequin (and also did a fantastic job with costumes). Rosie Meader seduces as the one and only Uno with two gloved hands (and a third hiding in a strategic place). Logan McArthur is a police protégé (not to be confused with ‘negligee’) with a fantastic recall of the longest and most action-packed monologue in modern theatre to date. The ever cherubic Brendan Layton as his bumbling superior, Memento, doled out fines to everyone in the audience before the show even started (must be a Sydney thing). And finally, Carla Field charms as Cilia, the woman whose face launched a thousand shenanigans.

Thunderstorms and venue closures be damned! There are no excuses not to see this highly entertaining and original show. And bring all your friends too, after all, laughter is best when shared among many.

The Italian Comedy is playing at 107 Projects Redfern until 3 December. For tickets and showtimes, go to

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