Saturday, 9 August 2008

A bit of a farce (but in a good way)

The visits of the Edward's Theatre Company to Venue 40 are always one of my highlights of the Fringe. Not least because as a venue manager I am able to sneak in and watch their warm-up routine (which is not only quite beautiful but would also, I maintain, make a good fringe show in its own right).

This year they have brought Lee Hall's adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's Commedia dell'Arte A Servant of Two Masters. The play begins in the foyer as Mike Tyas' energetic Truffaldino bursts through the double doors to invite us up to the theatre, and to silence our phones, children and spouses, as the remaining cast fuss about and resist his attempts to organise them.

We are then into the play proper, a story of betrothal foiled by death (or has it been?), love foiled by the aforementioned betrothal (or perhaps not), a servant's desire for a good dinner (or two) and good old fashioned cross dressing.

The first difficulty in a play like this, particularly stretching over an hour and a half, is to keep up the pacing. This the cast manage admirably under Carol Ashcroft's strong direction. Tyas is tireless as he bounds around the small stage, no more so than when he serves his two masters their suppers.

Aimee Robertson is also excellent as Smeraldina, the young maid upon whom Truffaldino has his eye, delivers some wonderfully scathing lines and a feminist speech on where she sees the proper role of women being. The two lover are also good, in somewhat thankless roles, in particular Natalie Kane as Clarice who turns her hysterical waterworks on and off on with remarkable, and comic, speed.

Above all, though, it is plenty of fun, from the false name Fusilli Carbonara to the dirtier humour such as when Frankie Tubb's Beatrice proves to Clarice that she is, beyond a doubt, a woman. Already I'm looking forward to whatever they may bring next year.

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