Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Venetian Twins

The Venetian Twins runs at the New Theatre in Newtown from 15 November - 15 December 2012. By Nick Enright and Terence Clark, directed by Mackenzie Steele.

The Venetian Twins is absolutely, positively, splendiferously entertaining. As I write this now, my cheeks ache – not from laughing (though I certainly did plenty of that), but from smiling. This is a splendid production of a really wonderful piece of theatre. If you want a night out that it 100% pure fun, then this is the show for you.

The show borrows from the traditions of farce, commedia dell’arte, and operetta, although it definitely has a very Australian twist. Identical twin brothers Tonino and Zanetto (both played brilliantly by Jay James-Moody) have been brought up separately, the former in the city, the latter in the country. The one is an urbane gentleman, the other a well-meaning but not terribly bright bogan. When they both come to the city seeking their respective fiancĂ©es, Beatrice (the luminous Marisa Berzins) and Rosina (Meagan Caratti), many wacky shenanigans ensue. There is villainy and intrigue and poison and magic and mistaken identity – and a whole lot of songs.

The Venetian Twins is the kind of show that it would be really easy to get carried away with. Nick Enright and Terence Clark’s script is so rich and so excruciatingly funny that it would be very easy to push it too far: to ham up the already hilarious gags and take it over the edge into self-indulgence. Director Mackenzie Steele has got a dab hand at knowing just when to stop, when to restrain his talented cast from excess and keep the pace of the show ticking over. (Steele also knows exactly when to let the cast take a gag and run with it!) The funny isn’t laboured but it isn’t glossed over either. This is a really superb piece of directing. I’ll be watching Steele’s future projects with great interest.

Steele also has a great eye for cast, because The Venetian Twins is almost perfect in this department. The standouts for me were Jay James-Moody as the twins and Marisa Berzins as Beatrice, but the whole ensemble is great. The show-stealer, though, is Dean Vince. His performance as the villainous Pancrazio – somewhere between Voldemort, Jafar, and David Copperfield – is quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen on stage in 2012. That gag he has with the rope of pearls? SIDESPLITTINGLY HILARIOUS. (Capslock FULLY WARRANTED.) Vince clearly revels in the cartoonish villainy of his character and hits all the notes perfectly. A truly fantastic performance.

The one quibble I had with The Venetian Twins was technical. Given that the New is not exactly a small theatre and that the band, while excellent, is loud, it would have been better to mic the performers individually rather than rely on the drop mics. When the actors were in the right spots (which they were probably 80% of the time), it was fine, but whenever they were out of position, it became quite hard to hear what they were singing. Given that the libretto is oh so very funny, I didn’t want to miss a single line, so I was a bit sad when I did. I’d advise those who do go along to sit near the front of the theatre – there’s less chance of missing stuff that way.

The Venetian Twins has my completely enthusiastic endorsement. I loved it sick. It is riotous and joyous and one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. I had a great night – I’d normally call a show that clocked in at two hours twenty minutes a touch on the long side, but I didn’t even notice. Go and see this one. No, really, I mean it. Even if just to see Dean Vince do that thing with the pearls.

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