first night

A Servant of Two Masters

Adam Hughes enjoys a farcical evening with the Hild Bede Fresher's play

Hilde Bede Theatre’s new production ‘A Servant of Two Masters’ is an irreverent, overacted yet likeable farce. Following a particularly eventful day in the life of the bumbling, amiable Truffaldino. The play is based on Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni’s original play of the same title, written in 1743. The source material may be almost three hundred years old, but this production is imbued with a vibrancy which is largely the result of the talented cast. What was clear from the very beginning of the performance was how much the cast had enjoyed working on the production and above all else this resulted in a fun piece of theatre.      

The play follows the servant Truffaldino –played by Mathew Davey- who, in pursuit of a filling meal takes up employment with two masters. The premise is intrinsically farcical and, as I’m sure you can imagine leads to some very humorous moments – the concealing of a waiter in a trunk being a highlight. There is more to the play than Truffaldino’s story however, the young lovers Clarice and Silvio – Pegah Moradi and Kieran Laurie – face what seems like; to them at least, constant struggles. There is also the tale of the two masters themselves Beatrice and Florindo - played by Georgina Armfield and Edward Whatley -which forms a large part of the plays narrative. Linked by trickery, disguise and confusion, the strands of plot are woven together to create a piece of fast paced comedy theatre.

As the play is a farce there is no escaping the clichés and conventions of the genre. Disguise, deception, mistaken identity, melodrama, bawdy humour and over exuberant characterisation make up the majority of the show. Farce is one of the most difficult genres to perform well. Although I am a fan of farce I have seen –as I’m sure we all have- many amateur productions come across as more annoying than entertaining; there is a fine line between caricature and ‘carica-bore’. I am pleased to say that the majority of this show was entertaining and the performances were well placed and well matched.

The performers were mostly of a very high calibre. The cast were all able to propel a script, which in other hands could have come across as rather tedious. Matthew Davey as Truffaldino was suitably foolish and likeable. As I watched Davey’s Truffaldino bound from one state of confusion to another I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Frank Spencer. In fact if I were to describe the character of Truffaldino I would say a Venetian Frank Spencer minus the beret. Archibald Murdoch’s Pantalone was a very well characterised performance, to be able to convincingly sustain the posture of an elderly man for a two and half hour show is not an easy task, but one dexterously achieved by Murdoch. Georgina Armfield’s Beatrice – who disguises herself as a man – was superb. Armfield gave one of the only performances, which required a more sensitive approach; her reunion with Florindo – Edward Wheatley – was both humorous and touching. Josh Williams portrayal of Dr. Lombardi was stellar, his ability to deliver one liners with perfect timing is a rare talent. A word of warning for all those on the front row, Dr. Lombardi is an impassioned enunciator, waterproofs are recommended, or rather saliva proofs.

Overall I enjoyed ‘The Servant of Two Masters,’ the play is a clichéd farce that pushes the boundary of over acting, yet in the hands of this talented cast, I was left entertained and happy.  

7 February 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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