First Night: A pleasure trip down comedy's Grand Canal
The Servant Of Two Masters RSC Stratford
Thursday 16 December 1999
Tim Supple's wonderfully entertaining new production of A Servant of Two Masters by Goldoni falls smack into the former category.
The last outing the RSC gave this prolific 18th-century writer was four years ago when David Troughton had a hugesuccess playing both a George Formby-type country bumpkin and his sophisticated identical sibling in The Venetian Twins.Now it is the turn of Jason Watkins, one of our most versatile and accomplished actors, to notch up an even more elating triumph.
The difference is that instead of playing a pair of separate people, Watkins performs the role of Truffaldino, a servant who, desperate to fill his empty stomach, snatches the opportunity to moonlight and hold down a couple of jobs simultaneously, unbeknown to his two masters. As fate would have it, one of these is a woman in male disguise (Claire Cox) who just happens to be searching for her lover who just happens to be - yes, you've got it - Truffaldino's other boss.
Calling his ruse "a miracle of time management" in Lee Hall's sparky and very funny adaptation, the split personality servant also makes a good class point about his "downsizing of the servant economy". If the masters had thought of it "it'd be an innovation".
The best bits of the show are the elaborate physical routines which Watkins, with his urchin baby face, half-mast trousers and cart-wheeling dexterity, delivers with a deliciously unforced humour. He is the perfect antidote to Commedia dell'Arte's most frequent exponent in England, the roguish Marcello Magni.
Here, by contrast, you get a master class in fleet, mischievous comic timing just by watching Watkins attempt to orchestrate the delivery of two copious meals to adjacent hotel rooms, housing his divergent masters. His hunger keeps throwing an enormous spanner into the works and he ends up practically making love to the ratatouille.
At one point, a character tells another to "get a move on, or Venice will have sunk". Supple, in this witty traverse-formation staging, and a cast rich in idiosyncrasy do not need this advice.
Well timed seasonally, Servant is a delightfully well paced alternative to pantomime.
- 1 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who left house after argument with her parents
Alton Towers crash: Four guests seriously injured as Smiler ride carriages collide
Charles Kennedy dead: A guy once asked the Lib Dem leader who his favourite Muppet was and his letter response was wonderful
Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? A pro-act...
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? The small...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...