Thursday, 20 May 2004
The Servant of Two Masters, Bell Shakespeare, May 20, 2004 *****
The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Adapted by Nick Enright & Ron Blair
By Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, 20 May until 5 June, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 20, 2004
John Bell's rollicking production of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, is the finest broad comedy we have seen in a long time and Darren Gilshenan is undoubtedly the star.
Gilshenan, an Associate Artist with Bell Shakespeare for many years, is a comic genius.
He is a naughty imp with superb physical and visual comic skills, impeccable timing, deadpan delivery and a masterly understanding of the Commedia dell-Arte.
In this play by Carlo Goldoni, Gilshenan features as the starving, enterprising servant, Truffaldino
The character is based on Harlequin and earlier servants of the Commedia known as Zanni.
Goldoni renovated comedies in Italy during the 18th century while Moliere did the same in France.
He revamped the Commedia dell-Arte, removing masks from actors, placing plays in theatres, not on travelling stages.
Commedia plays, until Goldoni, had scenarios and stock characters, but no formal written script.
However, he did not eliminate the improvisational elements and this is evident in Bell's production. The comic business, or Lazzi, is improvised each night.
Truffaldino arrives in Venice and takes on two masters. Like most servants in Commedia, he wants food, sex and rest.
The problem is that both masters reside in the same inn.
One is a woman, Beatrice, (Blazey Best) dressed as her dead brother, Federigo. The other, Florindo, (Matthew Moore) is her lover and the killer of her brother. Get it?
Gilshenan is accompanied on stage by a consummate ensemble of comic actors.
Robert Alexander is the wily, old miser, Pantalone. David James plays the blustering, overblown Dottore spouting faux Latin platitudes at will.
The two pairs of lovers are far more colourful than the usual Commedia romantic figures. Moore is wonderfully conceited and histrionic as noble Florindo. Best is feisty as Beatrice.
Justin Smith plays Silvio, the jilted lover of Clarice, as a dopey cowardly Elvis look-alike and Emily Russell is a charming, bouncing, petulant brat as Clarice
As the seamy innkeeper, Brighella, Arky Michael is hilariously camp in his pink rubber gloves and Jody Kennedy is cheeky and sexy as Smeraldina.
John Bell's production is spontaneous, energetic, delightfully choreographed and perfectly timed.
Stephen Curtis's enormous cyclamen and gold curtain is a vivid and simple backdrop for the cast's antics.
LOOK FOR: Gilshenan's Lazzo with the clothing trunks.
By Kate Herbert