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
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Largest ever study into the gay gene 'erodes the notion that sexual orientation is a choice'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'