THEATRE / Expect the unexpected: The Venetian Twins - Barbican Theatre
Friday 07 October 1994
Goldoni's comedy of identical twins who cause chaos when they converge on Verona was first given the Bogdanov treatment at the Swan in Stratford. It worked much better there than in this Barbican main-stage transfer. Partly, this is because the Swan, with its combination of scale and intimacy, is a venue where frame-busting mayhem can have an immediacy for the whole house. From my seat, halfway back in the stalls, it all seemed very remote, the vicarious embarrassment lacking true tingle.
This time, too, the deliberate gaffes, the lines fluffed so that the actors can air some 'off the cuff' wit, seemed gratingly mechanical. Such practices destroy your pleasure in the occasional genuine spontaneity.
If the show is still worth seeing, it's because of David Troughton's wonderfully engaging double as both twins - the one a George Formby North Country bumpkin, the other a narcissistic roue with a sense of honour. Troughton must have nightmares about the lightning off-stage changing he has to effect: he has to exit at one point plastered in eggs and fruit and re-emerge, in a tryst, drop-dead dapper.
There are scenes where you can feel the material yearning for a subtler approach than it gets here, such as the play's best sequence, where the brighter twin winds up in what he thinks is a brothel, chatting up his sibling's fiancee (Sarah Woodward). He thinks they are talking about imminent sex: she thinks he's agreeing to marry her now. All aroused, he's immobilised with his trousers round his ankles by the girl rushing out to get a couple of witnesses. But her progression in his eyes during this encounter, from being a hard-faced tart to a woman worthy of respect, needs to be registered with more delicacy than the direction allows.
Because the general tone is so knockabout, the death- darkened ending has nothing to emerge from and hence feels like a mere formal convenience. After all, Troughton could scarcely be reunited with himself.
Booking: 071-638 8891
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
- 5 Kim Sears responds to swearing controversy with 'parental advisory' T-shirt at Andy Murray's Australian Open final
Daniel Radcliffe deemed 'not marketable' without his English accent
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign