The Venetian Twins

For some, he was “Italy’s Shakespeare”, “the Moliere of Venice”; yet it’s only relatively recently that British theatre audiences have warmed to work by 18th century Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni – specifically, his 1743 comedy The Servant of Two Masters, turned into West End gold as One Man, Two Guvnors, initially starring James Corden. Perhaps it’s a matter of translation; as a writer, Goldoni’s talents clearly lie in their tight dialogue and solid comedic structure rather any deep investigation of the meaning of life. If you don’t get the surface details right, there’s little else for an audience to grasp.

It’s all, as they might say in Glasgow, pure dead brilliant; manic and grotesque, undoubtedly, but it’s performed with verve and a deliciously inviting artificiality

Thankfully, director and adaptor Tony Cownie gets it right in this broad Scots reimagining of Goldoni’s post-Two Masters play, The Venetian Twins. You know from the start where this tale of mistaken identity and constant duplicity is going, thanks to the gaudy stage curtain, the accordion-led overture, and the gloriously Technicolor™ sets and costumes. This is a comedy that starts with a blocked toilet and language to match.

It’s all, as they might say in Glasgow, pure dead brilliant; manic and grotesque, undoubtedly, but it’s performed with verve and a deliciously inviting artificiality – not just in the way various characters interact directly with the audience, but in how one of the lead characters suddenly realises just how unbelievable the situation in which he finds himself would appear if it was ever put on the stage.

The 10-strong cast are uniformly on top form, although the star-turn is undoubtedly Grant O’Rourke as twins Zanetto and Tonino. He plays each with absolute precision, which is no mean feat given that he’s repeatedly expected to walk off the stage as one before almost instantly re-appearing – usually from the other side of the set – as the other. He is ably supported, however, by the cast around him, not least by a ginger-wigged James Anthony Pearson as the duel-obsessed fop Lelio (dressed in an ensemble that’s halfway between The Joker and Willie Wonk), who’s more adept at providing his own sound-effects for drawing out his sword than actually using them, and two delightful masterclasses in comedy acting from Scottish stage stalwarts Kern Falconer and John Ramage.

Witty, sharp, and constantly on-the-ball, this is a quick-fire production with the quality of sexual innuendo found only in the best Talbot Rothwell Carry On… scripts. The production’s only downside is a somewhat overlong first act, and the slight interruptions required by the necessary scene-changes. Frankly, though, it’s a real delight.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


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The Blurb

“What the hell’s going on?”

After writing The Servant of Two Masters (recently a West End hit in a new version as One Man, Two Guvnors) Goldoni followed up with this timeless comedy of mayhem-inducing mistaken identity.

Estranged twins, Zanetto and Tonino are unlike each other in every way… except that they look exactly the same. When they both arrive in the same town on the same day each seeking a bride-to-be, romantic entanglements soon become hopelessly confused.

Before lunchtime, insults, threats, proposals, offers of duels and boxes of jewels have all ended up in the wrong hands… sorting it all out in time for the weddings is going to be murder!

Lyceum associate artist Tony Cownie’s fresh take on this riotous farce of confusion and calamity brings a delightfully Scottish flavour to a dizzying, and inventive romantic comedy.

Expect to be tickled pink as some of Scotland’s finest comic talent serve up a big slice of frivolous fun to round off The Lyceum season.

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