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
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Britain First picture: Photographer 'horrified' after first Afghan policewoman killed by Taliban used for 'ban the burka' campaign
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God