Aussie larrikin meets Carnevale in New Theatre’s The Venetian Twins
by Tiffany Hoy
An Australian musical based on an 18th century Goldoni classic? I really didn’t know what to expect, but The Venetian Twins is a playful comedy full of mistaken identity, jealous lovers, plenty of slapstick and even a nipple twist (or two).
Identical twins, Tonino and Zanetto, have been separated since birth and are as different as can be – one a Venetian gentleman, the other a country bogan. When each rock up at the same town (somewhere between Verona and Goondiwindi), to meet their respective girlfriends, chaos ensues.
Wine is turned into VB, bananas appear from some surprising places, and commedia is interrupted by good old Aussie slang.
Nick Enright and Terence Clarke’s libretto provides plenty of opportunities for laughs, and with director Mackenzie Steele at the healm, New Theatre’s production does not miss a trick.
The action is driven by mistaken identity and the machinations of would-be suitors – with some very funny songs throughout, sending up various musical styles.
White faces, stock characters and the odd Plague Doctor mask pay homage to commedia dell’arte traditions, on a set that recalls a travelling show with hessian sackcloth and a diamond-patterned drop. Low lights are used to great effect, as are giant picture frames and burnished mirrors, whisked about the stage for quick reveals and clever scene-setting. Set designer Sean Minahan and costume designer Alice Morgan have created a striking world in which the actors run riot.
And do they ever!
The cast as a whole are a very talented, well-oiled team, as you’d expect from the New Theatre, with impressive professional credits to everyone’s name. The script gives a lot of room to romp, and there’s no holding them back from the farce.
Jay James-Moody does admirable double duty as both twins, Tonino and Zanetto, with playful renditions of each character (he had me thinking there were two different actors till interval – der!).
In slinks Pancrazio, the villain of the piece, played by Dean Vince. Tall, bald and with a painted white face, Vince’s Pancrazio is a marvellous sort of diabolical cabaret Lord Voldemort – well worth seeing! Vince had the audience gleefully hissing back in his number, Hiss the Villain, with sly banter and slick dance moves.
Marisa Berzins as Beatrice, Tonino’s empassioned lover, steals the show with her fabulous soprano voice and hilarious scenes involving wind machines and rose petals that brought the house down.
Arlecchino and sassy Columbina (Zac Jardine and Debra Bryan) are a mischievous pair, Stephan Anderson makes a suave Florindo, with designs of his own, and Andy Johnston as the dandy Lelio keeps Rosina (Meagan Caratti) on her toes. And The Judge (Peter Flett) is not so holier-than-thou as he pretends…
The band does an impressive job of swapping between various musical styles – cabaret, operetta, Aussie folk song – and their moments of interaction with the cast are a highlight.
All in all, it’s a great night of fun – go see it! And get a seat down the front, as the venue lacks a little in mic support, and you won’t want to miss a single hilarious moment.
The Venetian Twins is showing at the New Theatre in Newtown, 13 November – 15 December. Click here for tickets and theatre information.