Writer: Carlo Goldoni
Adapter &Director: Tony Cownie
Designer: Neil Murray
Reviewer: S.E. Webster
As the theatrical season draws to a conclusion at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, the resident theatre company are giving a second outing to a scotticized Goldoni play. 50 years since Victor Carin’s adaptation A Servant of Twa Maisters trod the theatre’s floorboards, the raucous laughter and applause for Tony Cownie’s adaptation of The Venetian Twins is raising the Victorian roof on the Lyceum and stands to remain a firm favourite with Edinburgh audiences in the forthcoming weeks.
Rarely does a theatre press release guarantee the promises it lays out to the ticket buyer. But in this case, the Lyceum’s assurance that audiences will ‘be tickled pink’ by ‘some of Scotland’s finest comic talents’ remains true to its word. The play benefits hugely from the Scottish transplant that’s been so carefully administered by Cownie, the theatre’s associate artist and director of this production. Brilliant use of Scottish slang and wordplay really enhance the original text’s underlying themes and the bawdiness of the commedia dell’arte. The whole cast have great chemistry and work exceptionally well together – the danger of comic egos attempting to overshadow their counterparts is entirely averted, with each individual granted the limelight and comedic timing they deserve.
In particular, the use of a single actor to play the twins Zanetto and Tonino is inspired, merely enhancing the comedy and the meta nature of the play. Grant O’Rourke transitions effortlessly between the two rôles, and is entirely believable as the two very different twins. From Queen’s English to broad Scots, and from the seemingly reserved yet passionate Tonino to the cowardly and simple Zanetto, he delivers a flawless performance from start to finish.
While, there are some clear comedic parodies and influences in some of the individual performances, they succeed in heightening the comedy and subsequently connect with the audience on another level – it’s clear that Kern Falconer’s portrayal of the landlady, Flozzie, is a tribute to the popularity of Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown, while Grant O’Rourke as the self-confident, proud and stoic Venetian, Tonino, owes a debt to the comedic performances of Matt Berry as the IT Crowd’s Douglas Reynholm and Toast of London.
Scene changes are carefully and successfully stage managed with the use of an elaborately decorated safety curtain. Indeed, the vibrantly colourful impressive stage set, alongside the props and costumes, have all been created in the Lyceum Theatre workshops, and really enhance the Music Hall and Italian influences that designer, Neil Murray, has been so eager to embrace. It is also a great pleasure to see such wanton playfulness and unashamed commitment to a much brighter and elaborate form of design that is often absent from ‘serious’ theatre these days. Minimalism has its place, but this production provides the proof that a more dynamic and deliberate approach to set design and costume is equally valid and justified in today’s theatres.
Finally, the musical score, composed by Claire McKenzie warrants praise, particularly the use of instruments like the accordion, in enhancing the overall atmosphere of frivolity and comedy.
The Venetian Twins is not only a wonderful finale to the Lyceum’s theatrical season, but is truly a testament to the current strength and vitality of Scottish comedy.
Runs until 16th May 2015