Don’t You Dare!is a high-energy political satire that combines Storytelling, Physical Theatre and a contemporary reinterpretation of the Masks of Commedia dell’Arte to expose the witch hunts of our present time.
It’s 1601: a famous actress accused of mesmerising her audiences, stands trial for witchcraft. As the trial unfolds, the people turn against her hypnotised by fear and propaganda. In drawing parallels between the violent oppression of the Inquisition and the hate speech of contemporary politics, Don’t You Dare!invites us to reflect on the witch hunts of our present times. Focussing on the demonisation and repression of women, the piece weaves a narrative across centuries of attacks on women, the arts and freedom of expression.
A theatrical tour-de-force, Don’t You Dare!is anoutrageously funny and deeply moving one-woman show. With gallows humour and Panta Rei Theatre’s unique mix of physical theatre, surreal comedy and storytelling: expect laughter, tears and unforgettable characters.
Vittoria at the trial
The persecution of witches in the 1600s offered us an opportunity to talk about the dangerous repercussions of divisive and aggressive propaganda. We live in a world poisoned by the ‘politics of fear’ where ‘any delusion can be instilled’. ‘If one can isolate the masses, allow no free thinking…and can hypnotise the group daily with noises, with press, radio and television and with fear, people will begin to accept the most primitive and inappropriate acts.’ These are the words of a Jewish psychoanalyst, Joost Meerloo, who fled the Netherlands in 1942. Sadly, his words could be no more relevant today.
Don’t You Dare! is a history play set in the commedia dell’arte tradition and revolving around an actress condemned as a witch, yet contemporary in its references to a divided, xenophobic Europe and the dangers of patriarchy and dogmatism. [...] Written, directed and performed by Chiara D’Anna, the show is buoyed by her abundant charisma and a glinty-eyed archness. She switches between characters with camp exuberance and funny asides. (Arifa Akbar)
Don’t You Dare! uses the commedia dell’arte tradition to explore how the historical anti-woman propaganda of the Catholic church is part of a continuum with instances of contemporary anti-feminist backlash. Different century, the same shit. [...]It’s witty and playful and D’Anna is a delight, ad-libbing with glee and slipping into different characters with ease…A performer with charisma to spare. (Natasha Tripney)
Charismatic and enthralling, D’Anna is a chameleon and builds her characters thoroughly and unequivocally through changes in her physicality and voice, displaying exquisite acting skills. [...]By picturing old imaginary enemies, portraying illogical fears, and putting the crowd in front of the absurdity and nonsense of the criminal actions of past politicians, Don’t You Dare! candidly presents the chilling dangers our not-too-distant future holds. (Cindy Marcolina)
Boundless energy gives way to some utterly beautiful, heart-wrenching performances and a striking balance between Italian and English dialogue extract from the piece every possible ounce of wonderful authenticity. [...] Energetic role-playing have the audience in stitches, the actress interacting and educating as she explores the political repression of women. (Ezelle Alblas)
D’Anna is nothing short of phenomenal. A naturally funny and enigmatic performer. [...] Her charisma is what makes the show and what makes Don’t You Dare! the highlight of a great evening of physical theatre, comedy and satire in this worthwhile and poignant festival! (Peter Dunmar)
D’Anna performs with irresistible energy, carrying the audience with her. [...] On the one hand, Don’t You Dare! is an exploration of commedia characters given a modern twist; on the other, a scream at past and still surviving treatment of women—its satire sharp and very funny. (Howard Loxton)
This piece was originally conceived as ‘a journey back home’ to rediscover my cultural, historical and personal roots. A journey back to the Masks of Commedia dell’Arte where my theatre practice began. Utilising both autobiographical and historical material I wanted to look at what it means to be a migrant artist; not necessarily as the eternal ‘traveller’ but rather the eternal ‘outsider’: the one who doesn’t fully ‘belong’ and is therefore ‘other’…’different’. This felt particularly relevant to me since the result of June 2016’s referendum and post-Brexit climate in the UK. However, the theme changed throughout the creative process. The characters led me elsewhere. The piece progressively diverted towards another topic still related to the notion of ‘outsider’ and ‘outcast’; thediscrimination and demonisation of women at the time of the Inquisition. The clash between the values of the Catholic Church and the values of Commedia dell’Arte was the initial stimulus to write this piece.
Between the 16th and the 17th century the Catholic Church’s anti-women propaganda reached its peak with the persecution of ‘witches’. By making references to current affairs and contemporary politics, my aim is to explore how and why the same mechanisms of manipulation of the masses are at work today as they were 400 years ago. As Mandrou pointed out, ‘the witch-hunt was the first persecution in Europe that made use of multimedia propaganda to generate a mass psychosis among the population’.
The story is completely fictional, I utilised two historical figures of the time, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo and the famous actressVittoria Piisini, purely as an inspiration. The piece has an episodic structure with a narrative voice, the Storyteller, who guides the audience in their journey back and forth from the past to the present. The piece is in English except the scenes of The Soldier and the Granny. These are introduced by a prologue in English and performed in Italian. Like the traditional scenarios of Commedia dell’Arte, the piece has a Prologue and an Epilogue delivered by a Servant of Commedia dell’Arte, Arlecchino (Harlequin).
Inspiration for the piece include historical documents, the novel La Chimera by Sebastiano Vassalli; Commedia dell’Arte traditional canovacci, the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) the most famous treatise in witchcraft; modern day current affairs and even some autobiographical material; stories from my granny Nonna Ida, and her first love, lost at war during WW2.
Award-winning stage and film actress, best known for her work with writer and director Peter Strickland on the films The Duke of Burgundy and Berberian Sound Studio. She is the Artistic Director at Panta Rei Theatre and a leading practitioner on Commedia dell’Arte.
Graduated from the Theatre School in Amsterdam, Jelmer took an internship as a design technician with the international Dutch company Dogtroep. He gained further experience as a light designer with Theatre Company Suburbia, and as a sound and light designer for the opera, The Flying Dutchman. After his BA, Jelmer attended the Master Advanced Theatre Practice – Scenography at the Central School for Speech and Drama. Since then, he has worked as a light designer and scenographer for several Dutch and English theatre companies.
London based set and costume designer working in theatre, dance, film, editorial and event. Natasa has an ongoing working relationship with companies such as Bottlefed (with whom won the Jury Prize of ‘Best Performance’ with Hold Me Until You Break at 100 Grad Festival, Berlin) and Raw Matterial. Her latest works include La Strada at the National Theatre of Greece.