Wednesday 11th January – Commedia Dell’Arte

In today’s session with Lynn. We started looking at Commedia Dell’Arte. Where performances touring around Europe formed a language barrier as poeple were unable to understand each other. This is where ‘Grammelot’ – A made up nonsense language was formed. Using this language, people could communicate with each other through understanding similarities between pitch and actions within their own languages. The aim of this session was to have a go at making up our own ‘Grammelot’and create a piece using it.

I was able to learn of some examples of this nonsense language, such as:

  • Baby language: Babies cannot speak so instead, will make many noises, including crying to indicate if, for example, they are hungry or tired.
  • Television characters such as: Teletubbies, The Clangers, Pingu and Bill and Ben and the Flowerpot Men.
  • Rowley Birkin speaking on ‘Fast Car’
After learning the basics of ‘Grammelot’ we were asked to complete a few exercises. I was partnered and we played the ‘yes, no conversation’ game. where we had to reply yes or no in different ways using pitch and rhythm in order for the other to  understand what we were saying. We then played the counting game. We had to count from 1 upwards in the same way we did for the ‘yes/no’ game so that we could once again understand what we were saying to each other in a normal conversational like manner. I was partnered with Leah and found the exercise useful in the sense that I could recognise what the language was without any words being spoken.
Secondly we were paired up with different partners. We were set the task to come up with a piece where one of us hid an object and the other had to find it however the person who hid the object caught the other one in the act trying to find it and they have an argument in German Grammelot. I was partnered with James and we started by James hiding the object, I found it and he caught me and we began using ‘Ich’ and harsh sounding vowels in an angrily tone to make it recognisable that we were speaking German. I found this task really useful as it helped me to understand that we know hoe people are feeling etc through tone, pitch and volume primarily rather than the actual words used themselves.
The final task involved once again switching partners and I paired up with Leah, this exercise again involved grammelot. We were tasked with creating a piece where we are demonstrating or creating something, for example, a cooking programme. I was paired with Harry and we came up with a German grammelot piece based on how to build an aeroplane on a tv show. We said words in a harsh accent and put the letter ‘v’ in front of words to achieve the German accent required.
Overall, I learned in this session that we can break language barriers through multiple techniques. I am going to study more into ‘Commedia Dell’ Arte’ and it’s uses in order for me to apply it to my work in the future.
Here is a video of mine and Harry’s piece:
(from 2:21)

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