Watermill - The Venetian Twins
26th May to 10th July 2004.
From The Times.
Of course there is a single joke at its core: long-separated brothers who arrive at the same town on the same day, and cause confusion when cash, jewels and declarations of love are handed to the wrong people. But the characters are individuated and flavoursome, or have certainly become so in Ranjit Bolts merry translation. The merriment even encompasses two deaths, which isnt generally an ingredient of farce or comedy or whatever combination of the two defines the style of this enjoyable evening.
The creative team is the same that mounted a smashing version of Lope de Vegas The Gentleman from Olmedo here last month. The actors are the same and the set too, except that Mike Brittons vertical planking around a bare stage is now pierced with windows, through which characters comment on the action or flirt with lovers below.
We are in Verona and here comes the first identical twin, Zanetto, rich and something of a bumpkin. In the original he spoke in dialect, and Bolt switches from Apennines to Pennines to give him a sort of George Formby inanity Ee, Im that desperate to contrast with his Venetian brother, Tonino, urbane and tremendously well spoken. Tonino is calling himself Zanetto, for a reason that whirled past me, but the introductory family histories are quirkily sent up by the cast and in truth we lose little by it.
Both twins are played by Michael Matus, specialising in freezing his face whenever the Veronese present fresh evidence of communal madness. As one brother he becomes disdainfully puzzled, as the other gawpy and alarmed. The effects are very funny, though what has been sacrificed is Goldonis apparent wish to present the bumpkin as more admirable than the city dweller.
Jonathan Munbys direction is crisp and swift-moving, at one point hurling into surrealism when Daniel Coonans thwarted poltroon dives into the audience, seemingly wrenches off a womans leg and defends himself with her stiletto heel.
Dash and quick speaking, not penetrating psychology, is the required formula for such a play, the exception being the Tartuffe-like priest Pancrazio, absurd yet malignant. Jonathan Olivers slinky posturing and ever-fluttering hands reveal the wickedness without abandoning the comedy.
From the Sunday Times.
From the Daily Telegraph.
Farce that bubbles with life
No question about it, Jonathan Munby's riotous staging of The Venetian
Twins at the Watermill is a wonderfully silly joy to behold.
Kick FM's review.
This is an eighteenth century play by Carlo Goldoni with a modern translation by Ranjit Bolt, and its a mistaken identity farce. The cast and the set are the same as the Watermills last production, The Gentleman from Olmedo, and the acting is excellent, especially from Michael Matus, who switched brilliantly between the twins country bumpkin and smooth city slicker. But although there are laughs, and the cast give it all theyve got, I was disappointed with the play as a whole; I didnt find it funny enough or gripping enough, and not as satisfying as The Gentleman from Olmedo. But its had good reviews from the national press, and its interesting to see how it compares with Shakespeares many mistaken identity comedies.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
Who's who in Verona?
The Venetian Twins, at The Watermill Theatre, until July 10
The Watermill's production of The Venetian Twins is simply a joy! Premiered in 1748, Carlo Goldini's comic play is a heady combination of farce and comic conventions all played with utter conviction and pace by this excellent ensemble company under the assured direction of Jonathan Munby.
The play, translated by Ranjit Bolt, revolves around mistaken identity. Unaware of each other's presence, a pair of identical twins arrive in Verona seeking to marry.
Tonino is a sophisticated, well-spoken gentleman, resplendent in a cream-coloured suit and cravat, whereas his slightly dishevelled brother, Zanetto, is a rich country bumpkin with a broad Lancashire accent.
Both parts are superbly played with panache and an abundance of energy by Michael Matus, who switches characters so effectively that you did begin to wonder if there really were two actors.
Jonathan Oliver was splendid as the animated lecherous priest Pancrazio, trying to persuade Zanetto not to proceed with the marriage proposal in order that he can have his wicked way with the lovely Rosaura (Catherine Cusack).
Meanwhile Beatrice (Marianne Oldham), the other lover, is totally perturbed by Tonino's apparent infidelity, and as the plot twists and turns, the confusion grows.
Daniel Coonan's strutting peacock of a count, with a wonderful lisp, added to the hilarity. His duel with Tonino was quite absurd, particularly when he borrowed an artificial NHS leg from someone in the audience and used the stiletto heel to help in the fight. This was great knockabout comedy.
As for the servants, they are all swept along by the heady mix of confusion. Drew Mulligan was delightful as Arlecchino, the much down-trodden servant to Zanetto.
The denouement was almost as complex as the plot and is delivered at a rattling pace with much disbelief and surprise.
Mike Britton's stylish, stark set consisted of wooden panels that revealed opening doors and windows where the cast comment on the action.
This was a sparkling, frenetic production which combined all the right ingredients of farce, wit, some funky jazz interludes and an excellent troupe of actors to make a hugely enjoyable evening's entertainment. Don't miss it!