A Servant to Two Masters

Wednesday, 25 July, 2001
Review by: 
Darren Dalglish

The Royal Shakespeare Company/ Young Vic production of “A Servant to Two Masters” has returned to London for a third time and so I thought it was about time I saw the production myself. Unfortunately, the show did not live up to expectations, particularly after all the good reviews it had received. Nevertheless it is still an enchanting comedy.

The story tells of Truffaldino (Jason Watkins), who becomes the servant to two masters at the same time. He becomes the servant to Beatrice, who is disguised as her dead brother Rasponi, so she can track down her lover Florindo, the man who killed her sibling. Then Truffaldino, in order to alleviate his hunger, daringly becomes servant to Florindo as well. This sets up the classic farcical events of confusion, mayhem and subterfuge as Truffaldino tries to keep both ‘masters’ happy while both remain unaware of each other! It is joyous to see how the crafty servant gets out of tricky situations with his cheeky demeanour and outrageous lies!

The plot hinges around the fact that Clarice was betrothed to Rasponi by her father. Upon news of Rasponi’s death, she is free to marry the man she loves Silvio. However, chaos reigns when Beatrice (disguised as Rasponi) arrives to claim the money from the dowry, money she needs if she is to search for her lover Florindo.

Tim Supple directs Lee Hall’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century farce with lots of energy and pace, but the play relies too heavily on Jason Watkins, who was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance earlier this year. This for me is the plays’ weakness! The show lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, and I found this too long as Jason Watkins’s ‘routines’ were a little tiresome and dragged out the show, but then this is probably down to taste! If you like slapstick clowning around on stage then you will love his performance. Personally, I began to find it tedious. Looking around the audience, I could see that I was not the only one not to appreciate Watkins performance, though many obviously did! Regardless, there is no disputing his great talent. He performed his acrobatic feats with ballerina elegance and excellent timing.

The story has all the ingredients for a great farce, what a pity Hall and Supple decided to concentrate more on Watkins rather then the play itself. Nevertheless, there are many comic moments to keep your attention, performed by a strong company.

Jason Watkins, dominates the show so if you don’t find him funny then you won’t find the play funny!


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