Monday, June 25, 2012

The Venetian Twins

The Venetian Twins

By Nick Enright and Terence Clarke, Canberra Repertory, Theatre 3, 22 June to 7 July 2012. 

Malcolm Miller

Commedia dell'Arte originated with travelling groups of poor players who visited villages and tailored their show to amuse and entertain everybody, including the children.  Our 'Punch and Judy' is the remnant of these days and still amuses people of all ages.  Slapstick, pantomime, and the goonish humour developed during and after WW2 in England have been combined with Commedia by Australians Nick Enright and composer Terence Clarke in a genuine Aussie musical brought to life by multi-talented Director Tessa Bremner for Canberra's Repertory theatre company. 

The story is a very old one, perhaps as old as theatre itself, of twins separated early in life and arriving in the same place to be confused and confusing to everybody, including each other.  Ocker Zanetto and sophisticated Tonino are both played with delightful distinctness of character by Josh Wiseman, on a set with the necessary swinging doors to enable quick changes from one to the other.  Ian Croker as the comically villainous Pancrazio shines as he attempts to interfere in the romantic arrangements and planned marriage of Zanetto and Rosina, played by a winsome Bronte Forrester.  Dick Goldberg scores most of the laughs as Ariecchino, the inept servant of Zanetto.

The set designed by Ian Macdonald is clearly inspired by that Australian icon of the 1950s, the Ettamogah Pub, with its crazily out-of-square buildings. 

The strong cast includes the experienced Kate Tricks as the conniving and manipulative servant Columbina in a delightful performance, and singer Pamela Andrews whose wonderful voice brought the character of Beatrice, Tonino's lover, to splendid life. 

Costumes designed by Kate Levy brought the actors from Verona in the 18th century to Jindyworoback in the 20th.

The music from a back-stage band under Jim McMullen, and Musical Director Raphael Wong, is full of Terence Clarke's musical jokes and references, which should delight lovers of musical theatre.  Nick Enright's script, with the suggested local and contemporary references added by Bremner, builds a unique mix of Commedia, ocker humour, and farce which I found totally delightful.