General Silliness Productions transports their audience to Venice using the sixteenth-century Italian style of Commedia dell’arte. This form of theatre features exaggeratedly masked actors depicting such stock roles as the miserly merchant, the beautiful young girl, and the promiscuous maid. The story employs all the usual tropes that one would expect from the later Shakespearean or Elizabethan comedies that have remained popular, making it easily understandable and recognisable to the audience. The play features the confusion of mistaken identity, cross dressing, slapstick humour, deception, melodrama and a preoccupation with marriage. This production included modern music, which provides a welcome comedic touch with the rendition of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be and Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby got Back garnering the highest applause from the audience.
The characters are presented adeptly, but not developed sufficiently or convincingly enough for the audience to be able to invest much in them, though perhaps this is more a criticism of the stylised nature of the piece than of the actors themselves. Their energy and commitment to the piece is commendable and aptly captures the pantomime-esque aspect of the genre. Aided by some brightly coloured breeches and a variety of chests containing everything from sandwiches to swords (and even actors), the Venetian street scene is completed.
The stand out performance came from the young man (the only male member of the cast) playing Truffaldino who, as the eponymous servant, had a natural warmth and charm that engaged the audience, and helped maintain the pace of the play, which at points was much needed. In his opening song he claims, ‘I could’ve been a theatre critic, but I have a soul’, and I can only hope that this review will not have caused me to lose mine.