first night

A Servant To Two Masters

Isabel Crawley watches CTC's first production of the year.

Castle Theatre’s latest production, ‘Servant to Two Masters’, is a rollicking ride with moments of both farce and genuine feeling.

It centres around Truffaldino, the perennially hungry servant who, in an effort to increase his earnings, engages himself to (you guessed it) two masters. This would be quite enough to manage, but one of his masters is in fact a woman, Beatrice, disguised as a man to search for her lover, who just happens to be Truffaldino’s second master. Throw in a father determined to marry his daughter off to the ‘man’ Beatrice is impersonating, a background of sarcastic servants, plenty of real food props and several fits of enthusiastic hysterics and off we go.

The play was written in 1746, but Jess Christy, the director, has set it in the 1920s with a modernised script, peppering it with well-timed profanity which clashes entertainingly with the formal setting. The play is staged in the Castle’s beautiful Senior Suite, which, while posing some challenges to scene changes, nevertheless creates a strong sense of stepping into a formal era, particularly as the audience first entered and were welcomed by the cast in character – an enjoyable and engaging touch.

This cast rises admirably to the opportunities offered by the genre and the witty script, performing across the board with energy and enthusiasm. With some characters this was carried definitively into farce, which, while not out of place, at times felt overdone. The more down-to-earth characters were, however, consequently more sympathetic; Olivia Race, playing Smeraldina, the maid who can only be described as ‘sassy’, was unfailingly refreshing.  Sarah Silimani as the cross-dressing Beatrice was able to show both the character’s fiery determination and sense of vulnerability in a touching performance. The star of the show was, of course, Dominic McGovern playing Truffaldino; he struck just the right note between bumbling and cunning, keeping the audience entertained and interested in the increasingly (and hilariously) convoluted exploits of his character.

While occasionally the pace does flag, the energy and drive of the whole (particularly in the second act) carries off a production which is competent, witty, and above all: good fun.

27 November 2015

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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