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
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.