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.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...