The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldini. Bell Shakespeare Company directed by John Bell at The Playhouse, April 29 until May 15, 2004, 7.30pm. Matinees Saturdays May 1 and 15, 1.30pm. Bookings: 6275 2700 or 1800 802 025.
Go, Go, Go for Gold...ini! Take the kids to the matinees, they'll love it. Ring the Bell for John and his great team of designers, choreographers and actors. First among equals is Darren Gilshenan as the wildly comic servant Truffaldino.
Toll the bell for the late Nick Enright, sadly lost to cancer in 2002 at 52. He and Ron Blair adapted this 1746 off-beat Italian romantic comedy by translating it into the very Australian comic style of performers like Graham Kennedy, the earlier vaudeville team of Stiffy and Mo, Aunty Jack (I'll come round your place and I'll rip your bloody arms off) and today's Kath and Kim.
The jokes come thick and fast, in words and action, half the time apparently nothing to do with the play, and often improvised like Theatre Sports. There are no boundaries, and gradually a standard middle-class first-night Canberra audience warmed to the freedom until Truffaldino only had to show an eyebrow through the curtain and the place went wild.
But the play works so well because Goldini knew what he was doing. He took the popular Italian commedia street theatre into the theatre for the educated classes. The stock characters now have a new significance and the play becomes a social satire in which the servant class ups the ante on the master class and a sense of equality is the name of game in the final scene. I guess most of the audience today are descendants of the working class, so the play fits our Australian egalitarian sensibility.
In fact, I find myself thinking, we need this play to remind us not to let our rough and tumble knockabout ironic humour become lost in the new corporate world. It's what makes Australia endearing and different from the overblown self-importance of other cultures. This production is true to our culture, and it's great to see. Don't miss it, or I'll send Aunty Jack round your place.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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