THE VENETIAN TWINS
by Carlo Goldoni in a new version by Tony Cownie.
Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX To 16 May 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 7 May (+ Touch Tour 6.15pm), 9 May 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm).
BSL Signed 13 May 7.30pm.
Captioned 16 May 2pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 April.
Season ends in joyous meetings.
Years ago, Tony Cownie played a downbeat, failed Hitler of a 1950s householder in an update of Molière’s Tartuffe at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre. He, and Liz Lochhead’s Scottish adaptation, were hilarious. He still is, now directing and using his own adaptation of 18th-century comedy classic Carlo Goldoni, whose Servant of Two Masters (aka The Servant of Twa Maisters, or indeed One Man; Two Guv’nors) is, kind of, reversed in this story of identical twins, two masters possibly, mistaken for each other in a plot-device descended from William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.
Cownie’s success with such European comedies lies in being free-handed but not outrageous. There’s all the elegance and lightness of comedy, thanks to the direction, a superbly balanced clutch of performances that know when to skate along – creating laughter while seeming serious – and when to indulge a character’s foibles, and Neil Murray’s light, slightly fantasticated costumes, each subtly moulded to the character.
It’s evident in Grant O’Rourke’s there’s-no-justice-if-it-doesn’t-win–an–award double as the strangers and brothers who contrast city urbanity and country naivety. And in their respective fiancées, deliciously playing Cownie’s free manner; Dani Heron’s Rosaura a desirable, decorated cake treating the world to bright smiles and levels of dumbness no amount of being blonde could match, and Jessica Hardwick’s Beatrice, dressed as she sees fit, with arguments to match, being as Cownie throws-in with knowing anachronism, a suffragette.
This production is flawless in every sense. Kern Falconer plays a stern and questioning Provost, delightfully contrasting this with the pantomime travesty of a somnolent old bar-tender, in wild wig, false nose and long, plain skirt. Alas, behind the bar a trap-door leaves a floorless space, Falconer and Cownie making each, increasingly predictable drop as funny as the first.
There’s anger too, among a range of emotions which reflects the director’s strength in such repertory. He recognises the discontent and frustration through which comedy often occurs, which humanises and preserves great comedies, even at their cruellest. With these first-rate actors, playing to the hilt, he skilfully combines the sorrow and the pity, even as they underscore a spiralling merriment.
Columbina: Angela Darcy.
Provost/Flozzie: Kern Falconer.
Arlecchino: Keith Fleming.
Beatrice: Jessica Hardwick.
Rosaura: Dani Heron.
Florindo/Bargello: John Kielty.
Pancrazio: Steve McNicoll.
Zanetto/Tonino: Grant O’Rourke.
Lelio: James Anthony Pearson.
Brighella/Tiburzio: John Ramage.
Director: Tony Cownie.
Designer: Neil Murray.
Lighting:: Chris Davey.
Sound/Composer: Claire McKenzie.
Assistant director: Becky Hope-Palmer.