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The Venetian Twins

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The accordion-led overture that ushers in Tony Cownie's new version of Carlo Goldoni's eighteenth century comic cut of mistaken identity speaks volumes about what follows. Sure enough, as soon as Angela Darcy's servant Columbina and her nice but dumb mistress Rosaura open their mouths, we're in old-school sit-com land.

Separated at birth, twins Zanetto and Tonino arrive separately in Verona for very different reasons. Where Zanetto is a bumbling half-wit who seems to have met his perfect match in Rosaura just as his servant Arlecchino does with Columbina, Tonino is a bum-slapping charmer who has been followed by Beatrice, a Freud-referencing suffragette who just can't help herself. Jessica Hardwick's Beatrice is pursued both by Tonino's man Florindo and by the flamboyant Lelio, played by James Anthony Pearson as a a ginger-wigged fop resembling a creature who looks somewhere between The Joker and Sideshow Bob.

While Cownie's own production has the action leap a century or so on from Goldoni's eighteenth century original, there's something wilfully unreconstructed about it, even as the patter is pure dead gallus. The manic result is a Victorian seaside vaudeville complete with a riot of painfully bad jokes which probably haven't been heard since a 1970s Crackerjack panto but with extra added innuendo. And yes, the pub really is called The Two Cocks.

Amid a coterie of cartoon style grotesques, Dani Heron's Rosaura is like a vicious pink cupcake in drag, mixing her metaphors with dolly dimple abandon. At the play's centre, however, is a gloriously schizophrenic turn from Grant O'Rourke, who as both siblings flits between pomposity and uselessness in this most self-consciously vulgar of carry ons.
 
The Herald, April 30th 2015

ends



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