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The Venetian Twins

Carlo Goldoni, Tony Cownie
Lyceum Theatre Company
Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The Venetian Twins

After the run away success of One Man Two Guvnors, an update of Goldoni's A Servant To Two Masters, it's not surprising that others have started to dip into the works of the prolific Carlo Goldoni.

The Venetian Twins is another one of Goldoni's knockabout comedies which has been translated into English and Scots by Tony Cownie for the Lyceum. He places the action in Verona, but updates it to the first decade of the twentieth century.

Goldoni's plot owes more than a little to Shakespeare's A Comedy Of Errors. One major difference though is that the twins are played by the same actor, in this production the exuberant Grant O'Rourke.

Cownie's dialogue certainly embraces the absurdity of Goldoni's farce. The humour is rather hit-and-miss, though it is fair to say it's more hit than miss. There are some great one-liners, well delivered by the cast, though some of the jokes are rather past their sell-by date.

Aside from groaning at a few of the jokes, there are plenty of laughs to be had. The cast has a lot of fun with the gags, slapstick and character switching.

O'Rourke is barely offstage and so both Zanetto and Tonino have the same outfit. Despite their matching linen suits, there is never the slightest confusion for the audience as to which O'Rourke is playing, such is his ability to switch back and forth between these two very different, well-crafted characters.

Zanetto is a country bumpkin speaking in broad Scots, a lovable innocent, while Tonino is a sophisticated gentleman of Venice, all deep, measured tones. Zanetto's childish gullibility and Tonino's righteuous belief in Venetian values play an pivotal role in both the play's plot and humour.

O'Rourke isn't the only one to have fun switching character; Kern Falconer is both the Provost intent on marrying his daughter to the richest suitor and Flozzie the buxom innkeeper whose main concern is failing to notice her open cellar trapdoor.

Flozzie's ridiculous nose and bosom are just one way the production embraces the grotesque. Lelio (James Anthony Pearson) in metallic turquoise and shocking red clown hair is wonderfully silly as the Tonino's arrogant rival for the affections of Beatrice (Jessica Hardwick).

John Kielty also gets to switch between Florindo, Tonino's duplicitious best friend, local bobby on the beat Bargello and not forgetting an street accordion player roped into the madness.

Keith Fleming only gets the one part, Arlecchino, Zanetto's servant, but from his late entrance onwards he is a great comic force, mercilessly tearing down the fourth wall.

Columbina (Angela Darcy) as the Provost's simple daughter is a cross between Juliet and Mrs Malaprop, spouting nonsense from her balcony. Her maid Rosaura (Dani Heron) is a lot of fun too, bu sadly this comedy double act, despite starting the play off to a great start, doesn't get enough stage time.

Fun for all the family as long as you don't mind the odd red squirrel up the rectum reference. Anyway, certainly a broad comedy with jokes for everyone from the very clever to ones for Dads.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin