Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of 2 Masters is at the Nottingham Playhouse (0115-941 9419) from Wed to 24 May
Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of 2 Masters is at the Nottingham Playhouse (0115-941 9419) from Wed to 24 May

Along with the demise of Unisex hairdressers, the wireless, and rickets, have you noticed how people no longer run away to join the circus? (Mind you, they don't send children up chimneys any more either, but that's the 20th century for you). John Major ran away from the circus to become an accountant (and look at him now), but Carlo Goldoni's decision to up sticks at 14 and throw in his lot with a band of travelling players did him no harm. He lived to the ripe old age of 86 (no mean feat in the 18th century), having written more than 200 plays.

He wrote his first when he was 11. Ah, I hear you cry, but was it any good? I have no idea. There. I admit it... but I don't think I am alone in my woeful ignorance. What I do know is that his Venetian below-stairs comedy, The Servant of 2 Masters, is a cracker. Martin Duncan, artistic director of the buoyant Nottingham Playhouse, agrees, but he would, wouldn't he? After all, this is the third time he and his partner in crime, the director-designer Ultz, have conspired to make grown people fall about laughing at it.

The pair of them garnered a reputation for sublime silliness with a succession of real McCoy pantomimes at Stratford East and the Lyric Hammersmith - people go dewy eyed and snort with laughter at the memory of Cinderella and her Naughty, Naughty Sisters - and they have repeated the formula with this mad farce about Truffaldino, the servant who sets out to double his money by taking on two masters, one of whom happens to be a mistress in disguise... you get the picture.

Inspired by the comic chaos of the ludicrous meal scene at the end of Act One, Duncan and Ultz created a band of musicians doubling as a mutinous bunch of unruly Italian waiters and wrote a clutch of songs scored for euphoniums, double basses, spaghetti and chopping blocks.

Delia Smith, eat your heart out.


After critical and public enthusiasm over Alex Jones' play Noise (in a beautifully acted production by Mark Brickman), Soho Theatre Company's latest, Gabriel, by Moira Buffini, looks destined for similar success. The play, now previewing, has already won the 1996 LWT Plays on Stage award. Soho Theatre Company, London W1 (0171-420 0022) to 24 May