Tag Archives: New Theatre

Review: The Venetian Twins, presented by New Theatre.

Aussie larrikin meets Carnevale in New Theatre’s The Venetian Twins

by Tiffany Hoy

Venetian Twins_New Theatre

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.

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Review: Dating the World – part of the Sydney Fringe Festival

by Erica Brennan

Dating The World – part of the Sydney Fringe.

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I had heard whispers of good things about ‘Dating the World’ for awhile now and I was not disappointed. As I sat for the second time is as many weeks at the New Theatre I gazed upon a mostly bare stage with some cleverly hidden (and some not so, thank you theatre black curtains) objects and waited. Soon Stevl Shefn arrives with a battered suitcase, looking charmingly battered himself and greets us unintelligible language. He chatters away in a convincing manner hoping to get some kind of information out of us. A smile on his face and a nervous click to his voice, he tries again and again to explain what he wants. Finally his translator, Fatima, in full body burqa and just as fluent in Stevl’s language as ours, arrives. The two have a brief flurry of conversation and then she stands demurely to one side explaining that she will translate everything Stevl says.

Stevl has set himself up to give a lecture on love, but it is anything but. He starts to tell stories of what I think are failed love affairs all translated fluently by Fatima, but none of them seem to climax properly. Instead Stevl deviates further and further, distracted by his own delight, until you as an audience member you realise the deviations are the story and it ends. The performing duo of Steve Sheehan and Emma Beech were exceptionally skilled walking the line between understatement and character acting beautifully. You could never quite relax into the situation or become truly absorbed in the story. The effect was an electrifying tension.

As a piece of comedy ‘Dating the World’ is twisty and turny, it doesn’t give anything away. I found myself searching for meaning in every new story, each side tale and deviation. I was trying to decide what words were important, which anecdote was the one at which I supposed to be going ‘ah ha!’ I was waiting for a reveal of some kind, like learning the significance of why Fatmia in a burqua. About halfway through I blushed at my own pompous presumption that there had to be a definite reason for it.

It sounds like a frustrating experience but it was actually just the opposite. I was leaning forward the whole time with a bemused smile on my face and a soft chuckle in my throat. Fatima and her burqua were only small considerations, like many of my other attempts to make meaning, and I quickly found myself letting go and just enjoying this theatrical offering. Now after some time has passed I began to wonder if the crowning jewel of the piece was in acknowledging that people are weird. That we want to connect with others and so we struggle through our weirdness to do this, through dating, friendship, performance, etc. Then perhaps it is our obsession with meaning making that stops us from actually just sitting and allowing that connection to happen without explanation.

Or maybe ‘Dating the World’ was just a truly beautiful deviation from traditional three beat rhythms of performance. It reminded me of British stand up comedian Bill Bailey, a bit less melancholic, but a fine example of the imagination going gently wild. Go catch it if you can.